Obama: Libya Mission Underscores NATO’s Effectiveness

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2011 — The Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor mis­sion in Libya demon­strat­ed that NATO remains the world’s most effec­tive alliance, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today as he and French Pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy praised the men and women who car­ried it out.

Speak­ing along­side Sarkozy at France’s Cannes City Hall fol­low­ing the Group of 20 eco­nom­ic sum­mit, Oba­ma rec­og­nized the sol­i­dar­i­ty their two coun­tries and NATO showed as they pro­tect­ed the Libyan peo­ple from Moam­mar Gadhafi’s bru­tal­i­ty.

“The Unit­ed States was proud to play a deci­sive role, espe­cial­ly in the ear­ly days, tak­ing out Libyan air defens­es and con­duct­ing pre­ci­sion attacks that stopped the regime in its tracks,” Oba­ma said.

The way the mis­sion was con­duct­ed under­scored NATO’s effec­tive­ness and set a stan­dard for the future, he said.

“We act­ed quick­ly, in days,” the pres­i­dent said. “And whether con­tribut­ing forces or com­mand staff, every sin­gle one of NATO’s 28 mem­bers played a role.”

Eigh­teen nations, includ­ing Arab states, pro­vid­ed forces to the oper­a­tion, he said.

“And in an his­toric first, our NATO allies, includ­ing France, and espe­cial­ly the extra­or­di­nary lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Sarkozy, helped us to con­duct 90 per­cent of our strike mis­sions,” Oba­ma said.

This showed more nations bear­ing the bur­dens and costs of peace and pros­per­i­ty, he said. “And that’s how our alliance must work in the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he added.

Oba­ma praised the way French and Amer­i­can forces served togeth­er — com­man­ders who planned and exe­cut­ed the oper­a­tion, pilots who pre­vent­ed a mas­sacre in Beng­hazi, tanker crews who sus­tained the oper­a­tion from bases in France, air­men who deliv­ered life­sav­ing aid and the sailors and Marines who enforced the arms embar­go at sea, among them.

He not­ed that Amer­i­can pilots flew French fight­er jets off a French car­ri­er in the Mediter­ranean Sea dur­ing the oper­a­tion. “Allies don’t get any clos­er than that,” he said.

“Every man and woman in uni­form who par­tic­i­pat­ed in this effort can know that you have accom­plished every objec­tive,” Oba­ma said, not­ing that they saved Libyan lives and gave the Libyan peo­ple an oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy free­dom and democ­ra­cy.

Oba­ma offered a salute to Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the NATO’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe and com­man­der of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand; Navy Adm. Samuel J. Lock­lear III, com­man­der of Allied Joint Force Com­mand, Naples, Italy, and U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, com­man­der of Allied Air Com­po­nent Com­mand Head­quar­ters in Izmir, Turkey, the 16th Air Expe­di­tionary Task Force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

They and thou­sands of oth­er per­son­nel who made Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor a suc­cess helped show the world that “after a dif­fi­cult decade, the tide of war is reced­ing,” Oba­ma said.

“The long war in Iraq is final­ly com­ing to an end,” he said. Mean­while, he added, with France and oth­er allies and part­ners, “we’ve achieved major vic­to­ries against al-Qai­da, includ­ing Osama bin Laden.”

The pres­i­dent not­ed that French and Amer­i­can forces are fight­ing togeth­er in Afghanistan and tran­si­tion­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

Oba­ma rec­og­nized the many times through his­to­ry when the Unit­ed States and France stood togeth­er to defend their shared ideals.

“I’m con­fi­dent that we’ll con­tin­ue to stand togeth­er, strong and free, for the cen­turies to come,” he said. “Long live the alliance between our two great nations.”

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