AP Exclusive: US commander for Africa sees end to Libya mission; drones will stay for

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AP Exclusive: US commander for Africa sees end to Libya mission; drones will stay for security
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, October 1, 12:54 PM


WASHINGTON — The military mission in Libya is largely complete and NATO’s involvement could begin to wrap up as soon as next week after allied leaders meet in Brussels, according to the top U.S. commander for Africa.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press that American military leaders are expected to give NATO ministers their assessment of the situation during meetings late next week. And NATO could decide to end the mission even though ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi is still at large and his forces are still entrenched in strongholds such as Sirte and Bani Walid.

Just last week, NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, agreed to extend the mission over the oil-rich North African nation for another 90 days, but officials have said the decision would be periodically reviewed.

Ham said that the National Transitional Council and its forces should be in “reasonable control” of population centers before the end of the NATO mission, dubbed Unified Protector. And he said they are close to that now.


When NATO makes its decision, Ham said he believes there would be a seamless transition of control over the air and maritime operations to U.S. Africa Command. And, at least initially, some of the military surveillance coverage would remain in place.


“We don’t want to go from what’s there now to zero overnight,” Ham said. “There will be some missions that will need to be sustained for some period of time, if for no other reason than to offer assurances to the interim government for things like border security, until such time that they are ready to do all that themselves.”

U.S. intelligence and surveillance assets, such as drones, will likely stay in the region also to keep watch over weapons caches, to prevent the proliferation of weapons from Libya into neighboring countries.

But Ham said air strikes would likely end, unless specifically requested by the Libyan transitional government.

more: AP Exclusive: US commander for Africa sees end to Libya mission; drones will stay for security - The Washington Post


He goes on to say that the fact that Gadaffi is still at large is a matter for the Libyans.
 

jackalope

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Jan 2010
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NATO mission not done yet, but soon:



Fall of Sirte won’t mean end of NATO mission

(snip ... )


The Italian admiral said NTC victory in Sirte “will be an iconic moment” but that NATO will only end the mission once civilians are definitely out of harm’s way and the NTC is capable of keeping the whole country safe.

“The fall of Sirte is an important element, but like any decision it will not be the only factor,” he said.

A NATO diplomat said some allies will want the six-month-old mission to end once Sirte falls but others will argue that the alliance should make sure that all of Libya is secure before terminating the operations.

“It’s premature to work on closing the operation,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Despite a dramatic reduction in alliance air strikes in recent weeks, NATO defence ministers vowed after talks last week to keep bombing Gaddafi loyalists as long as civilians are under threat.

The last air strike in Sirte, for instance, took place on October 7 against a military vehicle.

Colonel Roland Lavoie, the operation’s military spokesman, said the close-quarter urban combat is restricting NATO missions as the alliance wants to avoid causing civilian casualties.

The refusal of Gaddafi forces to give up in Sirte “could be qualified as surprising,” Lavoie told a news briefing.

“The posture of pro-Gaddafi forces at this stage just does not make sense,” he said, given that “they could not change or influence the outcome of this conflict.”

Di Paola said any decision to end Operation Unified Protector will be taken in concert with the NTC and the United Nations, which provided the mandate for the air war that started in March.

“It think it will end very quickly, but I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said. “I think it’s very close.”

Fall of Sirte won’t mean end of NATO mission