Task Force Commander Provides Libya Update

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 — The two-man crew of a U.S. fight­er jet that crashed in Libya is safe, while the coali­tion has estab­lished a no-fly zone and ground­ed Moam­mar Gadhafi’s forces, the com­man­der of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn said today.
Two air­men eject­ed from their F‑15E Strike Eagle war­plane late yes­ter­day after the plane suf­fered an equip­ment mal­func­tion and crashed in east­ern Libya, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Lock­lear III said.

Coali­tion forces recov­ered one crew mem­ber, and Libyans found the oth­er, he added, not­ing that both men are now safe and with U.S. forces. 

Lock­lear, com­man­der of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, spoke with Pen­ta­gon reporters by phone today from the USS Mount Whit­ney in the Mediter­ranean Sea. 

Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn was estab­lished to enforce U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973, which calls for the pro­tec­tion of Libyan civil­ians from Gadhafi’s forces and autho­rizes a no-fly zone over Libya. 

“On March 18, the coali­tion began a grad­u­at­ed, sequenced cam­paign against the gov­ern­ment of Libya … to pro­tect inno­cent civil­ians,” the admi­ral said. “Cruise mis­sile attacks accom­pa­nied by sig­nif­i­cant coali­tion airstrikes ren­dered Gadhafi’s long-range air defens­es and his air force large­ly ineffective.” 

The coali­tion includes 13 nations’ forces and mul­ti­ple ships and sub­marines, Lock­lear said, includ­ing French and Ital­ian air­craft car­ri­ers and a U.S. amphibi­ous assault ship, the USS Kearsarge. 

Task force land- and sea-based air­craft include recon­nais­sance, ear­ly warn­ing, attack, fight­er and sup­port assets in the air dai­ly to enforce the no-fly zone, Lock­lear said. 

The admi­ral said Gadhafi’s air force before coali­tion oper­a­tions was “not in good repair,” and that his tac­ti­cal capa­bil­i­ty con­sist­ed of sev­er­al dozen heli­copters. Against those air­craft, he said, “our airstrikes have been very effective.” 

While the coali­tion con­tin­ues to expand effec­tive­ness of the no-fly zone, the admi­ral said, forces loy­al to Gad­hafi still pose a threat to the Libyan people. 

“Despite our suc­cess­es to date … Gad­hafi and his forces are not yet in com­pli­ance with the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion,” Lock­lear said, “due to the con­tin­ued aggres­sive actions his forces are tak­ing against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of Libya.” 

In announc­ing U.S. sup­port to the coali­tion, Lock­lear said, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma laid out expec­ta­tions that includ­ed requir­ing Gadhafi’s forces to “stop advanc­ing on Beng­hazi, and they have to pull back from Zawiyah, Ajd­abiya [and] Misurata.” 

“They have not done that,” the task force com­man­der added, not­ing that while the coali­tion has forced regime troops out of Beng­hazi, they have not pulled back from the oth­er three cities. 

If Gad­hafi imple­ment­ed a cease-fire, stopped all attacks against cit­i­zens, with­drew from the places the coali­tion has des­ig­nat­ed, estab­lished water, gas and pow­er sup­plies to all areas and allowed human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, Lock­lear said, that would end the operation. 

“The fight­ing would stop,” he said. “Our job would be over.” 

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

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