NATO: U.S. Capabilities Vital for Allies

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2011 — NATO-led oper­a­tions in Libya show NATO forces are flex­i­ble, open and strong, and also demon­strate the need for crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties such as the unmanned air­craft sup­plied by the Unit­ed States, NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen said today.

“This was the first alliance oper­a­tion where Euro­pean allies and Cana­da took the lead, and the alliance got the job done,” Ras­mussen told reporters dur­ing a brief­ing in Brus­sels on what NATO calls Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor.

“Euro­pean allies and Cana­da led the air force,” he added, “but this mis­sion could not have been done with­out capa­bil­i­ties which only the Unit­ed States can offer. For exam­ple, drones, intel­li­gence and refu­el­ing air­craft.”

Such capa­bil­i­ties are crit­i­cal for all NATO allies, Ras­mussen said, and include trans­port and strate­gic air­lift capac­i­ty.

“More allies should be will­ing to obtain [such capa­bil­i­ties] and that is a real chal­lenge,” he added. “We will have to find the solu­tions at the next NATO sum­mit in Chica­go.”

At the Lis­bon Sum­mit in Nov. 2010, NATO pre­sent­ed its third Strate­gic Con­cept since the end of the Cold War, defin­ing the alliance’s 11 strate­gic pri­or­i­ties for invest­ment over the next decade, includ­ing mis­sile and cyber defense, and counter-IED tech­nol­o­gy.

From now until the May 2012 sum­mit in Chica­go, Ras­mussen said, “we will try to iden­ti­fy a num­ber of areas in which a group of coun­tries could pool and share resources.”

Then in Chica­go, he said, “hope­ful­ly, we can iden­ti­fy a num­ber of elite nations that would car­ry for­ward these projects,” build­ing on the pri­or­i­ties named in Lis­bon.

“It will be a com­pre­hen­sive defense pack­age that will con­tribute to mak­ing more effi­cient use of our resources,” Ras­mussen said, “but also aim at nar­row­ing the eco­nom­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal gap between the Unit­ed States and Europe. That’s my ambi­tion.” In addi­tion to high­light­ing such gaps, Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor shows the flex­i­bil­i­ty, open­ness and strength of NATO forces, the sec­re­tary-gen­er­al said.

Though the oper­a­tion is not over, it has an unprece­dent­ed Unit­ed Nations man­date — the respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect the Libyan peo­ple — and NATO has imple­ment­ed the man­date with unprece­dent­ed pre­ci­sion, Ras­mussen said.

“No com­pa­ra­ble air oper­a­tion in his­to­ry has been so accu­rate and so care­ful in avoid­ing harm to civil­ians,” he added, not­ing that the oper­a­tion in five months has degrad­ed a war machine that took more than 40 years to build.

NATO and our part­ners will be there as long as we are need­ed but not one minute longer,” he said. “When we assess that the threat is over for good, we will con­clude Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor. I can­not give a pre­cise date, but I believe it will come soon.”

NATO began the oper­a­tion on March 31 with the aim of pro­tect­ing civil­ians and civil­ian-pop­u­lat­ed areas under attack or threat of attack by Libyan leader Moam­mar Ghaddafi’s mil­i­tary.

Accord­ing to NATO, the mis­sion con­sists of an arms embar­go, a no-fly zone and actions to pro­tect civil­ians. Since the operation’s start, NATO allies have con­duct­ed 21,662 sor­ties, includ­ing 8,140 strike sor­ties.

NATO’s oper­a­tions com­man­der is Cana­di­an air force Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, who oper­ates with his staff from the Allied Joint Force Com­mand in Naples.

To sup­port the arms embar­go, 15 ships under NATO com­mand are patrolling the cen­tral Mediter­ranean. They have hailed 2,500 ves­sels, board­ing 258 and deny­ing pas­sage to 11.

Also since March 31, NATO has record­ed 949 air, ground and mar­itime move­ments by inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance orga­ni­za­tions to bring food, water and med­ical aid to the Libyan peo­ple.

“It is now [time] for the Libyan peo­ple to shape their future,” the sec­re­tary-gen­er­al said.

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