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)