Obama: Gadhafi’s Death Marks End of Painful Era for Libya

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 — The death of Moam­mar Gad­hafi marks the end of a long and painful era for the Libyan peo­ple, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today.

“For four decades, the Gad­hafi regime ruled the Libyan peo­ple with an iron fist,” Oba­ma said in the White House’s Rose Gar­den. “Today we can defin­i­tive­ly say that the Gad­hafi regime has come to an end. The last major regime strong­holds have fall­en. The new gov­ern­ment is con­sol­i­dat­ing the con­trol over the coun­try, and one of the world’s longest-serv­ing dic­ta­tors is no more.”

The peo­ple of Libya took their lessons from the Arab upris­ings in Tunisia and Libya and revolt­ed against Gad­hafi, the pres­i­dent said, but he was too pow­er­ful, and his forces moved against the rebel strong­hold of Beng­hazi. The world feared a blood­bath and act­ed quick­ly, Oba­ma said.

“Faced with the poten­tial of mass atroc­i­ties and a call for help from the Libyan peo­ple, the Unit­ed States and our friends and allies stopped Gadhafi’s forces in their tracks,” he said. “A coali­tion that includ­ed the Unit­ed States, NATO and Arab nations per­se­vered through the sum­mer to pro­tect Libyan civil­ians.”

Libyan rebels coa­lesced around the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil and broke the back of the regime. “The dark shad­ow of tyran­ny has been lift­ed, and with this enor­mous promise, the Libyan peo­ple now have a great respon­si­bil­i­ty: to build an inclu­sive and tol­er­ant and demo­c­ra­t­ic Libya that stands as the ulti­mate rebuke to Gadhafi’s dic­ta­tor­ship,” Oba­ma said.

Amer­i­cans have assist­ed this effort to pro­tect Libyans from their blood­thirsty leader every step of the way, the pres­i­dent said.

“Our skilled diplo­mats have helped to lead an unprece­dent­ed glob­al response, our brave pilots have flown in Libya’s skies, our sailors have pro­vid­ed sup­port off Libya’s shores, and our lead­er­ship at NATO has helped guide our coali­tion,” he said. “With­out putting a sin­gle U.S. ser­vice mem­ber on the ground, we achieved our objec­tives, and our NATO mis­sion will soon come to an end.”

This effort shows the strength of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship, the pres­i­dent said.

“We’ve tak­en out al-Qai­da lead­ers, and we’ve put them on the path to defeat,” he said. “We’re wind­ing down the war in Iraq, and have begun a tran­si­tion in Afghanistan. And now, [work­ing with friends and allies in Libya], we’ve demon­strat­ed what col­lec­tive action can achieve in the 21st cen­tu­ry.”

Accord­ing to news reports, Libyan rebel forces killed Gad­hafi out­side Sirte dur­ing a 40-minute fire­fight. U.S. offi­cials have no direct con­fir­ma­tion of Gadhafi’s death, but the pres­i­dent did hear from the Libyan prime min­is­ter of the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil, and White House offi­cials said he has “con­fi­dence” in the reports of the dictator’s death.

Spo­radic fight­ing con­tin­ues in Gadhafi’s home­town of Sirte, Navy Capt. John Kir­by, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman, said today. U.S. offi­cials said it is too ear­ly to tell when NATO’s Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor will con­clude, but that it prob­a­bly will end soon.

Oba­ma ordered U.S. forces to begin Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn on March 19. U.S. and coali­tion allies launched 110 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles to begin the oper­a­tion.

The objec­tives were to pre­vent fur­ther attacks by Gad­hafi regime forces on Libyan cit­i­zens and oppo­si­tion groups, espe­cial­ly around Beng­hazi, and to degrade the regime’s capa­bil­i­ty to resist the no-fly zone put in place under Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973.

By March 20, the no-fly zone was effec­tive­ly in place, and by April 1, NATO had assumed com­mand of the oper­a­tion — chang­ing the name to Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor. Amer­i­can forces were in sup­port of a large coali­tion fly­ing strikes into Libya and stop­ping ships on the high seas that were seek­ing to break the U.N. embar­go on the North African coun­try.

From April 1 to Sept. 30, the Defense Depart­ment spent rough­ly $1.1 bil­lion on the oper­a­tion. This includes fund­ing dai­ly mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, muni­tions, the draw­down of defense sup­plies and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said.

Since April 1, U.S. air­craft have flown 7,725 sor­ties in sup­port of Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor. The num­ber of U.S. strike sor­ties launched was 1,825, and the num­ber of Preda­tor sor­ties 145. The num­ber of U.S. strike sor­ties that dropped ord­nance was 397.

“We look for­ward to the announce­ment of the country’s lib­er­a­tion, the quick for­ma­tion of an inter­im gov­ern­ment and a sta­ble tran­si­tion to Libya’s first free and fair elec­tions,” Oba­ma said.

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