THUNDER BAY – The death of the former Libyan dictator Col. Qadhafi means change in the North African country. Since March 24, an unprecedented coalition of NATO Allies and non-NATO contributors having been protecting civilians under threat of attack in Libya, enforcing an arms embargo and maintaining a no-fly zone.
As NATO Secretary General Rasmussen explained, under ”Operation Unified Protector,” NATO is doing ”nothing more, nothing less” than meeting its mandates under United Nations Security Council resolutions. No NATO ground troops have participated in the operation – NATO’s success to date has been achieved solely with air and sea assets.
On Friday NATO issued the following statement: “The Council agreed that the operations are very close to completion and has taken a preliminary decision to end the operation on 31 October 2011. The Council will take a formal decision early next week. In the meantime, the Secretary General will consult closely with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council.
“The Council agreed that NATO will wind down the operation, during which period NATO will monitor the situation and retain the capacity to respond to threats to civilians, if needed”.
Now the efforts will shift to assisting the Libyan people, and their new government toward the next steps that will be choosen in that country.
One area is securing arms, and the large stockpiles of weapons that are currently in Libya.
NATO states, “It’s easy to see where the oil revenues of Libya were squandered over the decades of Colonel Qadafi’s rule. The streets of the country are now awash with weapons that have fallen into the hands of the National Transitional Council as they seized the caches that were built up to suppress the Libyan people. The looting of these weapons hoards allowed the rebels to quickly acquire the firepower they needed to overthrow the regime, but it has resulted in a highly armed population. It is a problem that will need to be addressed quickly if it is not to create security issues further down the line”.
The NATO mission in Libya Timeline:
Following the popular uprising, which began in Benghazi on 17 February 2011, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1970 on 17 March. The resolution institutes an arms embargo, freezes the personal assets of (the now former) Libyan leaders and imposes a travel ban on senior figures.
On 8 March, with international concern over the Libyan crisis growing, NATO stepped up its surveillance operations in the Central Mediterranean, deploying AWACS aircraft to provide round-the-clock observation. These “eyes in the sky” give NATO detailed information of movements in Libyan airspace.
On 10 March, NATO Defense Ministers supported SACEUR’s decision to have alliance ships move to the same area to boost the monitoring effort.
On 17 March, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973, authorizing member states and regional organizations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
On 22 March, NATO responded to the UN call by launching an operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. The next day, NATO ships and aircraft began operating in the Central Mediterranean to make sure that the flow of weapons to Libya by sea was cut off. They have the right to stop and search any vessel they suspect of carrying arms or mercenaries.
On 24 March, NATO decided to enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. The UN resolution banned all flights, except those for humanitarian and aid purposes, in Libyan airspace in order to ensure that civilians and civilian-populated areas could not be subjected to air attack.
On 27 March, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen announced that NATO Allies would implement all aspects of the UN resolution – “nothing more, nothing less” – in order to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under attack or threat of attack from the Qadhafi regime.
On 14 April, foreign ministers from NATO Allies and non-NATO contributors met in Berlin. They committed to using all necessary resources and maximum operational flexibility to meet the UN mandate until such time that:
all attacks on civilians and civilian-populated areas have ended,
the Qadhafi regime withdraws all military and para-military forces to bases, and
the Qadhafi regime permits immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid for the Libyan people.
On 22 August, in a statement following the fall of Tripoli, Secretary General Rasmussen reaffirmed both NATO’s commitment to protect the Libyan people and its desire that the Libyan people decide their future in freedom and in peace. He noted that the international community, principally the United Nations and the Contact Group, will play the leading roles in post-conflict rehabilitation efforts. NATO, however, would consider supporting these post-conflict efforts – but only if asked and if needed.
On 1 September, the “Friends of Libya” – heads of state and government as well as representatives of key international and regional organizations – met in Paris to discuss ways to aid Libya’s transition to a functioning democracy. They also agreed Operation Unified Protector would continue for as long as necessary, but not a moment longer.
On 16 September, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2009, which establishes a UN mission in Libya. Resolutions 1970 and 1973, which mandated international action to protect civilians in Libya, remain in place, as threats against the civilian population persist.
On 21 September, NATO extended Operation Unified Protector for up to 90 days, noting its intention to regularly review the necessity for sustained operations.
On 6 October, at the conclusion of the Defence Ministerial, Secretary General Rasmussen reported that the Allies and their partners reaffirmed their commitment to protect the people of Libya. They also refined the guidelines for determining when to terminate Operation Unified Protector: It will end when Qadhafi and his regime no longer threaten the security of the Libyan people and the National Transitional Council can provide for their security. Noting that NATO “did the right thing, in the right way, and for the right reasons,” the Secretary General pledged to coordinate the termination of operations with the United Nations and the legitimate Libyan authorities.
Videos and pictures from NATO.