Situation Fluid, But Gadhafi Regime Nears End, Obama Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2011 — Though the sit­u­a­tion in Libya remains flu­id, the coun­try is at a tip­ping point and the last hours of Moam­mar Gadhafi’s regime are at hand, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today.

The pres­i­dent spoke from Blue Heron Farm on Martha’s Vine­yard, Mass., where he has been fol­low­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the Libyan cap­i­tal of Tripoli dur­ing a vaca­tion.

NATO offi­cials do not know where Gad­hafi is, the pres­i­dent said, and the sit­u­a­tion on the ground is com­pli­cat­ed. “But this much is clear: the Gad­hafi regime is com­ing to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its peo­ple.”

As part of the Arab Spring revolts, the peo­ple of Libya took to the streets to end Gadhafi’s 42-year long dic­ta­tor­ship. While the peo­ple of Tunisia and Egypt were suc­cess­ful in top­pling their lead­ers, Gad­hafi sent the army after pro­test­ers in Libya. The Unit­ed States, the NATO alliance and Arab part­ners act­ed to pre­vent a whole­sale slaugh­ter of inno­cent Libyan men, women and chil­dren in Beng­hazi, Libya’s sec­ond-largest city and the seat of the revolt.

“In the ear­ly days of this inter­ven­tion, the Unit­ed States pro­vid­ed the bulk of the fire­pow­er, and then our friends and allies stepped for­ward,” Oba­ma said. “The Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil estab­lished itself as a cred­i­ble rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Libyan peo­ple. And the Unit­ed States, togeth­er with our Euro­pean allies and friends across the region, rec­og­nized the TNC as the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ing author­i­ty in Libya.”

NATO’s Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor cut the regime off from arms and cash, and airstrikes steadi­ly degrad­ed Gadhafi’s mil­i­tary force. “From Beng­hazi to Mis­ura­ta to the west­ern moun­tains, the Libyan oppo­si­tion coura­geous­ly con­front­ed the regime, and the tide turned in their favor,” Oba­ma said.

Over the past 48 hours, the rebels, who fought for their lives in Beng­hazi in March, moved into the cap­i­tal. “For over four decades, the Libyan peo­ple had lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights,” the pres­i­dent said. “Now, the cel­e­bra­tions that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya show that the pur­suit of human dig­ni­ty is far stronger than any dic­ta­tor.”

Still the fight­ing is not over. As the regime col­laps­es, regime units report­ed­ly have been threat­en­ing to con­tin­ue fight­ing. “Although it’s clear that Gadhafi’s rule is over,” Oba­ma said, “he still has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reduce fur­ther blood­shed by explic­it­ly relin­quish­ing pow­er to the peo­ple of Libya and call­ing for those forces that con­tin­ue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.”

The pres­i­dent pledged to help the TNC as it takes on the duties of gov­ern­ment. “I’ve direct­ed my team to be in close con­tact with NATO, as well as the Unit­ed Nations, to deter­mine oth­er steps that we can take to deal with the human­i­tar­i­an impact,” he said. “We’re work­ing to ensure that crit­i­cal sup­plies reach those in need, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who have been wound­ed.”

The pres­i­dent praised the efforts of Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers for their con­tri­bu­tions to the effort over Libya and in the Mediter­ranean.

“We also pay trib­ute to Adm. Sam Lock­lear [com­man­der of Allied Joint Force Com­mand], and all of the men and women in uni­form who have saved so many lives over the last sev­er­al months, includ­ing our brave pilots,” he said. “They’ve exe­cut­ed their mis­sion with skill and extra­or­di­nary brav­ery, and all of this was done with­out putting a sin­gle U.S. troop on the ground.”

The pres­i­dent praised NATO for demon­strat­ing again that it is the most capa­ble alliance in the world, and he also praised the Arab nations who opposed Gad­hafi. “Their actions sent a pow­er­ful mes­sage about the uni­ty of our effort and our sup­port for the future of Libya,” he said.

More than 5,300 Amer­i­can sor­ties have been flown as part of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor; 1,210 were strike sor­ties and 101 were Preda­tor unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cle strikes. The tar­gets includ­ed air defens­es, arms caches and ground forces.

The esti­mat­ed cost to the Defense Depart­ment for Libya oper­a­tions was about $820 mil­lion through June 30, said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman. This cost includes amounts for dai­ly mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, muni­tions used in the oper­a­tion, and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, he explained.

From the begin­ning of the NATO oper­a­tion through Aug. 19, the Unit­ed States has sold par­tic­i­pat­ing allies and part­ners about $221.9 mil­lion worth of ammu­ni­tion, repair parts, fuel and tech­ni­cal assis­tance.

The depart­ment has spent about half of a $25 mil­lion fund to get non­lethal aid to the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil. This is the val­ue of the aid only, Lapan said. DOD has received no addi­tion­al requests, he added, but will con­tin­ue to work with the TNC to deter­mine what addi­tion­al assis­tance the tran­si­tion­al gov­ern­ment may need.

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