Bloomberg News

NATO Sees Libyan Rebel Council Control as Way to End Mission

October 21, 2011

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The NATO-led coalition in Libya decided tentatively to end its military operation on Oct. 31, judging the country’s transitional council can adequately protect civilians, U.S. Ambassador Ivo Daalder said.

A final decision will be made next week, Daalder, the U.S. representative to NATO, told reporters on a conference call today. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s ambassadors and partner nations reached their conclusion during a meeting in Brussels today, based on advice from military commanders.

“We were looking at the degree to which the NTC could provide for the security of citizens throughout the country,” Daalder said, referring to Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council.

In the meantime, the coalition will begin winding down its operations and will monitor conditions on the ground in case coalition forces are needed again, he said. Commanders expect little need for enforcing a no-fly zone or an arms embargo in the interim because fighting has subsided, Daalder said.

The Oct. 31 end date will mark seven months after the operation began with authorization from a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for military action to protect civilians. Libyan rebels, backed by coalition air strikes, overtook forces loyal to 42-year dictator Muammar Qaddafi in their last holdout of Sirte this week, and he was killed in the melee.

Key Indicator

“We considered the fall of Sirte a key indicator that the NTC would be able to have control over all population centers, which it now has,” Daalder said.

Commanders cited an uprising of Qaddafi loyalists even a week ago that was “quickly put down by the local authorities, suggesting therefore that the NTC was capable of providing the kind of security for its own people that was necessary,” Daalder said.

The alliance also examined the degree to which organized military units still control heavy weapons that threatened civilians and how much Qaddafi or his supporters still controlled such forces.

“There was a determination that not only Qaddafi’s demise made that impossible but the command and control system itself was no longer functioning,” Daalder said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined the conditions for ending the operation two weeks ago during talks with his counterparts in NATO, where he sought to forestall a premature exit.

Facebook Announcement

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the Oct. 31 end of the operation in a post to his Facebook page.

Asked whether the operation could become a model to be used in Syria, where the UN estimates more than 3,000 have been killed in a deadly crackdown against protesters by President Bashar al-Assad, Daalder said that was unlikely.

Unlike the support the U.S. and its allies gained from Arab nations for action to stop Qaddafi’s assaults against Libyan civilians, no such consensus is developing on Syria, he said.

“Opposition forces as well as the Arab League do not think it is a good idea for outsiders to intervene,” Daalder said. “Nor is it clear that intervention from the outside would have the desirable effect.”

--Editors: Terry Atlas, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at vgienger@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at Msilva34@bloomberg.net.


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