‘No-Fly Zone’ Would Require Military Force

Mar 1, 2011 6:20pm

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports:

The commander of US Central Command, Gen. Gen. James Mattis, told Congress today that setting up a No-Fly Zone over Libya would be no easy task and would involve taking out Libyan air defenses.

Asked by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)  about the feasibility of enforcing a No-Fly Zone, Mattis replied “My military opinion is, sir, it would be challenging.”

He explained, “You would have to remove the air defense capability in order to establish the No-Fly Zone so it – no illusions here, it would be a military operation. It wouldn’t simply be telling people not to fly airplanes.”

At a Pentagon briefing today Joint Chiefs  Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen added that  establishing  a No-Fly Zone is “an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”  He echoed Mattis in saying that if there is a decision to establish a No-Fly Zone that “ we’d have to work our way through doing it in a — in a safe manner and certainly not put ourselves in jeopardy in doing that. ”

Despite all the talk of establishing a No-Fly Zone over Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today that there is “no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force.”

If anything Gates and Mullen sounded hesitant about extending support for a No-Fly Zone over Libya.  Gates said “the kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second- and third-order effects. So they need to be considered very carefully.”

Gates announced today that he had ordered two amphibious ships into the Mediterranean Sea from their current location in the Red Sea to possibly assist with any humanitarian relief or a possible evacuation from Libya.  However, he made no mention of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise which is also in the Red Sea and whose fighter aircraft have  frequently been mentioned as possibly being used to enforce a No-Fly Zone.  The carrier has not received any orders to move beyond the Red Sea.

A No-Fly Zone has become a topic of international discussion to protect Libyan civilians from attacks from the air, but it was interesting to hear  both Gates and Mullen say today that they could not independently confirm the reports of such attacks beyond what they had seen in press reports.  

- Luis Martinez

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