By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2011 – NATO members are reviewing their contributions with an eye toward increasing their support to the ongoing mission to protect the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, a NATO spokeswoman said today.
“It is clear that NATO has the resources to keep up the pressure on the Gadhafi regime,” Oana Lungescu told reporters via videoconference from Brussels. “We know it takes time. We know that following last week’s ministerial meeting, allies and partners are considering how they can best provide the necessary resources to see this mission through.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is “confident the alliance will do just that,” she said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joined his fellow defense ministers at last week’s ministerial in Brussels to endorse the extension of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector mission by 90 days. The extension authorizes NATO to continue operations through the end of September.
Gates also prodded NATO to increase its support for the operation, telling NATO’s Security and Defense Agenda assembly the day after the ministerial the mission as it stands reflects lack of both resources and will.
“While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission,” he said. “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”
Despite these gaps, Gates recognized that the mission has succeeded in grounding Gadhafi’s air force and degrading his regime’s ability to kill his own people. “While the operation has exposed some shortcomings caused by underfunding,” the secretary said, “it has also showed the potential of NATO, with an operation where Europeans are taking the lead with American support.”
NATO Deputy Spokesperson and Royal Air Force Wing Cmdr. Mike Bracken, military spokesman for Operation Unified Protector, reported “considerable dynamic activity across Libya” during the past few days, with frequent skirmishes in pockets of the country between pro-Gadhafi and rebel forces.
NATO is monitoring the constantly evolving situation on the ground closely as it continues its operations, Bracken said today via teleconference from the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters in Naples, Italy.
Much of NATO’s effort is focused on Tripoli, where air strikes continue to degrade Gadhafi’s command-and-control nodes and other military targets and ultimately, his forces’ ability to coordinate attacks, Bracken reported.
“We know that Tripoli is the lynchpin for the command and control of the Gadhafi regime and his ability to issue orders to fielded forces,” he said.
NATO also is targeting ammunition storage bunkers and facilities across Libya to deny Gadhafi forces munitions and reduce the threat of attacks on the civilian population.
“NATO will continue to dismantle the regime’s ability to coordinate attacks and direct violence against the country, and reduce pro-Gadhafi forces’ freedom to maneuver,” Bracken said.
Lungescu expressed optimism at Germany’s and the United Arab Emirates’ recent decisions to recognize the anti-Gadhafi National Transitional Council established in February as “the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.”
She called the decision “further evidence of the increasing isolation of the Gadhafi regime and that, quite simply, this regime has no future.”