NATO Could Decide Tomorrow to End Libya Mission

With Moammar Gadhafi’s death in Libya today, NATO could decide as early as tomorrow that the time has come to end the mission in Libya.

A NATO official says it’s likely that the NATO Council will meet in Brussels Friday in a special meeting to receive an updated recommendation from its military commanders about the status of the ongoing mission in Libya.  The NATO Council meets every Wednesday and received a regular Libya update yesterday, which is now outdated given today’s events.

“It’s anticipated this new assessment will come with a recommendation with regards to the operation,” says the official.   ” I can’t speak to the recommendation…but there have been dramatic events today that will no doubt have a bearing on the commanders view of where to go next.”

This official says that if the NATO Council were to decide tomorrow to terminate the mission in Libya,  it would not occur immediately.  Like most military operations he says it would end in a phased manner, much as it started.   The official says that’s because it’s prudent to ensure that the mission doesn’t end until they’re absolutely sure how the situation will be resolved in Libya.

The updated assessment will likely include a recommendation that will be made by Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, who is based in Naples has been running the operation; he’ll pass it on to his superior, Adm. Sam  Locklear who’ll then pass it to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Adm. James Stavridis.  Stavridis would then approve it for endorsement by the NATO Military Committee in Brussels which will then forward it to the NATO Council.   If the 28 member nations agree with the recommendation they’ll pass along new instructions to NATO’s military commanders.

NATO launched Operation Unified Protector on April 1 with the mission of protecting Libyan civilians, enforcing a maritime arms embargo and enforcement of a No-Fly Zone.    US military planes ceased conducting offensive air strikes to protect civilians, but continued to participate in the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone over Libya.   Later, the US brought in Predator drones to airstrikes to protect Libyan civilians.

The US effort includes more than 70 aircraft (refueling tankers, fighters for the No-Fly mission, predators) and one US Navy ship, the USS Mesa Verde, which is part of the naval effort.

The Pentagon estimates that as of September 30, the US military mission in Libya has cost $1.1 billion.

According to the latest NATO figures, NATO planes have flown a total of 26,089 sorties over Libya since April 1.  Of these, 9,618 were considered strike sorties which means they were armed for a strike mission, but doesn’t mean ordnance was dropped.

US military aircraft conducted  7,725 of those sorties, of which 1,825 were strike sorties.   US planes dropped ordnance on 397 of those strike sorties, of which 145 came from Predator drones.