By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, April 22, 2011 – NATO has come forward in a very positive way to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya and protect Libyan citizens from the Moammar Gadhafi regime, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said here today.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also told service members serving with U.S. Division Center in Baghdad that “the international consensus is that Gadhafi has got to go.”
NATO is in charge of enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians, Mullen said, adding that he is pleased the alliance stepped forward to lead the operation.
Regime change is not a part of the NATO mission, and the U.N. resolution does not address it, Mullen said, but it remains to be seen whether the Libyan dictator will step down.
“The long-term political end-state is to have [Gadhafi] gone,” he said. “Globally, the guy is a pariah, and every single action the vast majority of countries are taking are going to continue to put the squeeze on him until he’s gone. Is [Gadhafi] going to figure that out? I don’t know.”
The NATO operation “is certainly moving toward a stalemate,” Mullen said, as neither rebel forces nor Gadhafi’s forces can win a decisive edge, and tough fighting continues in Misrata and Ajdabiyah.
Not surprisingly, the chairman said, Gadhafi’s forces have adapted their tactics. They are closing with rebel forces, dispersing themselves among civilians and using civilians as a shield. “It’s a tougher fight than it was at the beginning,” the chairman said.
“At the same time, we have ‘attritted’ somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of his main ground force capabilities,” Mullen said. “Those will continue to go away over time.”
Mullen stressed the international focus on ousting the Gadhafi regime, noting that members of the Arab League support the military action in Libya. “This is the first time that I’m aware of where the Arab League has voted for something like a no-fly zone,” he said.
But the international focus only highlights that at the end of the day, the Libyan people must decide what Libya needs, the chairman said.
“In all these countries where this turmoil is taking place, what is important to remember and what is obvious is this is about the people of these countries, and we should respect that as they try to imagine their own future,” he said.
Though France and Great Britain have said they are sending advisors to aid the Libyan rebels, there is no chance the United States will follow suit, Mullen said.
“The president has been very clear: No boots on the ground, and I can assure you that’s where we are,” he said.