''We answered the call'' - the end of Operation Unified Protector
After seven months of operations at sea and in the air NATO has ended its mission for Libya. The Alliance’s job to protect civilians from the threat of attack is done. On his historic first visit on 31 October to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was proud of the part the Organization and its partners played in helping the country and the region.
“When the United Nations took the historic decision to protect you, NATO answered the call. We launched our operation faster than ever before. More than 8,000 servicemen and women took part in our mission for Libya. We were effective, flexible and precise,” Rasmussen said.
A successful mission
The Secretary General praised Libyans for their courage, determination and sacrifice in liberating their country. The head of Libya’s National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, thanked NATO for its support. “The operations of NATO were successful. The strikes were so accurate that civilians were not harmed. The people of Tripoli can testify to this,” Jalil said.
At NATO's Joint Force Command Headquarters in Naples, Lt. General Charles Bouchard, the Canadian Commander of Operation Unified Protector, called the mission a success story for both NATO and the Libyan people. NATO jets flew some 26,000 sorties, including more than 9,600 strike missions. In accordance with its United Nations mandate, the Alliance did not put boots on the ground. As the Commander points out, it was the Libyan rebels who toppled the regime.
“I believe at the end of the day, 7 months was a very short period of time to watch a force organise themselves from a disorganised group to a group that was able to defeat the regime,” said Bouchard.
Partnership and cooperation
Before starting the operation NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, was keen to ensure the broadest possible support for the mission. It managed to bring together NATO countries as well as partners, including several Arab states.
Karl-Heinz Kamp, Head of Research at the NATO Defence College in Rome, said it was significant that countries which could have acted alone such as France, the UK and the US chose to conduct the mission within NATO. “This is a sign, also particularly with regard to lacking money, that in today’s times NATO is the enabler. It enables countries to conduct military operations they probably are not able to do alone anymore or willing to do alone,” said Kamp.
For Lt. General Bouchard, the cooperative way in which the mission was conducted bodes well for the future of the Alliance.
“I think this mission proved that we can actually rapidly mount an operation and bring people together, give them a common objective and successfully meet those objectives,” Bouchard said.