Panetta Details Guidelines for Ending Libya Mission

BRUSSELS, Oct. 6, 2011 — Con­sen­sus exists among NATO mem­bers about how to decide when to end Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor in Libya, based on guide­lines that can be used to eval­u­ate con­di­tions on the ground there, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said today.

At his final press con­fer­ence of the Oct. 5–6 NATO defense min­is­te­r­i­al here, Panet­ta list­ed the four guide­lines, which ask the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

— What hap­pens in Sirte? This is the home­town of for­mer Libyan leader Mua­mar Gad­hafi and heavy fight­ing is under­way there.
— Does the Gad­hafi regime main­tain the capa­bil­i­ty to attack civil­ians?
— Does Gad­hafi main­tain com­mand capa­bil­i­ty with his regime’s remain­ing forces?
— Are oppo­si­tion forces able to pro­vide secu­ri­ty and con­front chal­lenges that may arise?

“The deci­sion there will depend a great deal on the rec­om­men­da­tions of our com­man­ders who I think will review those guide­lines and come for­ward with their rec­om­men­da­tions as to when the mis­sion ought to con­clude,” Panet­ta said.

Join­ing Panet­ta in NATO Head­quar­ters’ Luns Audi­to­ri­um were Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, com­man­der of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, supreme allied com­man­der Europe.

The deci­sion won’t be based on “a set series of pre­cise met­rics,” Stavridis said dur­ing the press con­fer­ence. “It’s rather a sense of the sit­u­a­tion, and it will fol­low the guide­lines that the sec­re­tary laid out.”

The mil­i­tary offi­cers who head the air and sea por­tions of the Libya oper­a­tion, he said, are Roy­al Cana­di­an Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, com­man­der of the NATO mil­i­tary mis­sion in Libya, and Ital­ian Navy Vice Adm. Rinal­do Veri, com­man­der of the Mar­itime Com­mand for Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor.

Togeth­er they will work through the con­flu­ence of fac­tors involved in deter­min­ing the mission’s sta­tus and present their views to Navy Adm. Samuel J. Lock­lear III, com­man­der of the Allied Joint Force Com­mand Naples.

Ulti­mate­ly the rec­om­men­da­tions will be moved into the NATO polit­i­cal sphere for final deter­mi­na­tion, Stavridis said.

At his own final press con­fer­ence of the min­is­te­r­i­al, NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen said the end is in sight for Libya oper­a­tions.

“Gadhafi’s forces are fight­ing for a lost cause, the threat to civil­ians is fad­ing away [and] the recent pos­i­tive devel­op­ments in Libya are irre­versible,” he said.

NATO is deter­mined to pur­sue the oper­a­tion as long as fight­ing per­sists in Sirte, and end the oper­a­tion as soon as polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary con­di­tions are ful­filled, Ras­mussen said.

“We launched Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor to pro­tect the peo­ple of Libya,” he said. “We have con­duct­ed it in full com­pli­ance with our man­date, and I hope we’ll soon be able to end it in coor­di­na­tion with the Unit­ed Nations and the legit­i­mate legal author­i­ties.

“We did the right thing in the right way and for the right rea­sons,” he added.

Euro­pean allies and Cana­da took on the operation’s lead­er­ship and sup­plied the main effort, Ras­mussen said.

“This was new,” he added, “it was wel­come and could act as a mod­el for the future.”

Libya’s new lead­er­ship faces huge polit­i­cal chal­lenges, the sec­re­tary-gen­er­al said, “but basi­cal­ly we’re con­fi­dent that the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil can man­age a peace­ful tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy.”

Ras­mussen does not fore­see a major NATO role after the mis­sion ends, he said.

“It is for the Unit­ed Nations to take the lead in inter­na­tion­al efforts to assist the new author­i­ties in Libya, if request­ed by the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil,” he added. “But if we are request­ed to assist, we stand ready to help.”

In a longer-term per­spec­tive, Ras­mussen said, “I could fore­see that NATO could pro­vide assis­tance in reform­ing defense and the secu­ri­ty sec­tor if request­ed by the NTC. We have a lot of exper­tise in that area.”

“If there’s a request and if there are needs that can be met,” Panet­ta said, “I think all of us in NATO would have to give seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as to what kind of assis­tance, what kind of advice, what kind of train­ing could be pro­vid­ed” to help the new lead­er­ship pro­vide secu­ri­ty to the pop­u­la­tion.

“If they are to suc­ceed,” he added, “I think the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, in gen­er­al, owes it to them to pro­vide what­ev­er help is nec­es­sary to guar­an­tee” that suc­cess.

Libya’s accom­plish­ment “will be an extreme­ly impor­tant sig­nal to oth­er coun­tries in the region,” Panet­ta said, show­ing that as a result of the Arab Spring, any coun­try can “move in the right direc­tion to secure human rights, [imple­ment] polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic reform, and estab­lish a bet­ter future for their peo­ple.”

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