NATO has taken sole command of international air operations over Libya, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced in Stockholm today.
NATO has all the assets in place for Operation Unified Protector, including forces for the arms embargo and no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians and civilian centers, Rasmussen said.
The operations are taking place under the auspices of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola of the Italian navy, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said the alliance has gradually taken over command of these operations from U.S. Africa Command.
“This decision followed a constructive debate among NATO political and military authorities, and has been taken by the alliance in a remarkable short lap of time,” he said.
NATO officials have directed U.S. Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, “to launch the operation without any gaps while the transfer of assets is ongoing,” Di Paola said. The operation is under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard of the Canadian Forces.
The NATO mission also has contributions from partner nations, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“We consider regional support as fundamental, in line with the principles and core tasks highlighted in NATO’s new Strategic Concept,” Di Paola said. “I want to be clear. The focus of our mission is to protect the civilian population. We know that this is a challenging endeavor and the situation on the ground is complex. We are also aware that there is no purely military solution to the crisis.”
Alliance officials stressed that the alliance will adhere strictly to the mission delineated by the U.N. resolution.
“NATO is not engaged in Libya to decide the future of the Libyan people,” Di Paola said. “That is up to Libyans themselves. We are helping enforce the will of the international community to protect them from attacks so that they can start shaping and deciding of their future.”