NATO Sees Momentum Gain in Protecting Libyans

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 — NATO has gained momen­tum in the last few days in Libya, British Defense Sec­re­tary Liam Fox said at the Pen­ta­gon today.
At a news con­fer­ence, Fox thanked the Unit­ed States for adding Preda­tor drones to the skies over Libya.

“We’ve seen some progress on the ground in Mis­ra­ta, and it seems clear that the regime is on the back foot,” he said. “The soon­er Col. [Moam­mar] Gad­hafi rec­og­nizes the game is up, either today or short­ly, the better.” 

Fox spoke after he and Gen. Sir David Jack­son of the British army met with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for more than three hours. 

“Our talks includ­ed mil­i­tary oper­a­tions over Libya, where the U.S. con­tin­ues to be in a sup­port­ing role in the NATO-led cam­paign, along with our Arab allies,” Gates said. “We talked about the way ahead in Afghanistan, where more than 9,000 British troops are in the thick of the fight.” 

They also dis­cussed the his­toric changes under way across the Mid­dle East, with both Gates and Fox mak­ing it a point to con­demn the use of vio­lent tac­tics against peace­ful protests. 

The defense lead­ers also shared thoughts on the chal­lenges fac­ing the U.S. and British mil­i­taries in the face of fis­cal constraints. 

“For sev­en decades, the spe­cial rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom and the spe­cial bond forged in blood between our mil­i­taries has been a force for good in this world,” Gates said. “I’m pleased that our dia­logue today sus­tained and advanced that rela­tion­ship at such a chal­leng­ing time.” 

Afghanistan is the main the­ater of oper­a­tions for U.S. and British efforts, Fox said. About 100,000 Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers and 9,000 British troops are in Afghanistan. “We dis­cussed how the process of tran­si­tion was mov­ing for­ward, and increas­ing­ly, while we have con­trol of the mil­i­tary space in Afghanistan, the sit­u­a­tion in the polit­i­cal space becomes of ever greater impor­tance,” Fox said. 

U.S. and British forces also con­front pira­cy in the Per­sian Gulf and off the coast of Somalia. 

Val­ues and prin­ci­ples apply to all coun­tries, Gates said, “in terms of peace­ful protests, in terms of the need to address polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic griev­ances of populations.” 

“That said,” he added, “our response in each coun­try will have to be tai­lored to that coun­try and the cir­cum­stances pecu­liar to that country.” 

In Libya, the Arab League actu­al­ly start­ed the diplo­mat­ic effort against Gad­hafi. The Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil also weighed in, fol­lowed by the Unit­ed Nations. 

“There was a degree of inter­na­tion­al sup­port for this human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion … that was unprece­dent­ed,” Gates said. 

Gates defend­ed bomb­ing of Gadhafi’s com­pound, main­tain­ing that as a com­mand and con­trol node to the Libyan mil­i­tary, which con­tin­ues to attack its own peo­ple, the com­pound is a legit­i­mate target. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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