NATO Ends Operation in Libya

By Dialogo
October 31, 2011

NATO decided to officially end its seven-month operation in Libya as of October 31, in spite of calls made by the transitional Libyan government to continue its air patrolling until the end of the year.

On October 31, NATO fighter aircrafts brought to a close their mission, after more than 26,000 interventions and the bombing of almost 6,000 targets in an operation that allowed rebel forces to overthrow the veteran ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

“The operation in Libya will come to an end on October 31, 2011. Our military job is now done”, informed the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in a message on Twitter, after coalition ambassadors agreed to end the mission.

NATO had preliminarily taken this decision the week prior, since the organization considered that civilians were safe of attacks after Gadhafi’s death and the fall of Sirte.

The decision was announced on October 28, after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to rescind the order that authorized military action in Libya from 11:59, Libyan time (21:59 GMT) on October 31.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UN decision clarified that Libya had entered “a new era”, even though the new leader, Mustafá Abdel Jalil, warned on October 26 that men faithful to Gadhafi still represented a threat.

According to Hague, this decision “represents another significant step towards a peaceful and democratic future for Libya”.

The operation had caused serious divisiveness in the UN, since Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa accused NATO of violating the mandate.

The fears of Jalil seem to gain strength due to the information that Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al Senusi – who flew from Libya – has passed from Niger to Mali.

“We have heard, and it is more or less confirmed, that Abdullah al Senusi has crossed Niger”, said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the National Council of Transition.

It is unknown whether Saif al Islam Gadafi, son of the deposed Libyan ruler, is with him. It seems that Saif al Islam would be hidden in Niger since his father’s death in Sirte on October 20. However, this is not confirmed.

Even though NATO has firmly denied that Gadhafi was one of its targets, it was a coalition’s aircraft strike that intercepted the convoy in which the former ruler was trying to escape. The operation ended with the capture and death of Gadhafi.

Due to the unanimous international criticism for Gadhafi’s death, the interim government promised to bring the perpetrators to court on October 27, apparently leaving aside its allegation that the former ruler had died in a shootout.

The coalition, headed by the United States, France, and Great Britain, started the first air operations on March 19, before transferring command to NATO on March 31.

Contrary to other NATO operations, European countries assumed a central role, with France and Great Britain in charge of most air strikes, while the United States played a fundamental role in providing intelligence data and refueling of aircrafts.