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American Forces Press Service

Mullen: Attacks Make No-Fly Zone Possible

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2011 – The coalition attacks yesterday have put in place the conditions needed to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" today.

“Effectively, the no-fly zone has been put in place," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. "We have halted [Moammar Gadhafi's forces] in the vicinity of Benghazi, which is where he most recently was on the march, and it is hard to say what’ll happen in the next few days and weeks.”

Mullen spoke of Operation Odyssey Dawn and support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. The resolution calls for a coalition to stop Gadhafi from killing his own people and to establish a no-fly zone over Libya.

“Operations yesterday went very well, certainly in putting in place the no-fly zone,” Mullen said. Gadhafi has not had any aircraft flying for the last couple of days, and the Tomahawk barrage on the integrated air and missile defense system effectively shut the system down." B-2 bomber attacks also hit Libyan airfields.

The coalition has combat air patrols up over the opposition stronghold of Benghazi in the eastern part of the country, the chairman said, and the combat air patrol will push west toward the capital of Tripoli in the future.

Mullen said the operation is focused on ensuring Gadhafi can’t continue to execute his own people. "We don’t see any indications of any sort of large-scale massacre at this time,” he added.

The coalition has taken pains to avoid causing civilian casualties, Mullen said, but Gadhafi has placed people near the radars and anti-aircraft missile sites to serve as a human shield between them and coalition attacks. “True to form, what Gadhafi has done is put in place human shields in some cases, or just said we’ve caused civilian casualties. I just haven’t seen that,” the chairman said.

Forces loyal to Gadhafi are near Benghazi, and some of the attacks yesterday were on those forces. Mullen said he expects those attacks will increase in the hours and days to come to prevent them from attacking innocent civilians.

Ghadafi has a stockpile of mustard gas, but coalition intelligence shows he is not moving to deploy that capability, the chairman said.

American leaders are in charge of Operation Odyssey Dawn right now, but the command will shift to another coalition country in the days ahead, Mullen said. “The United States will continue to support with unique capabilities which include [electronic] jamming support, ... tanker support for the aircraft, those kinds of things,” he said.

U.S. Africa Command chief Army Gen. Carter F. Ham briefed President Barack Obama on Operation Odyssey Dawn. Obama, on a visit to South America, held a secure conference call that also included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

According to a readout of the session released by the White House, “the president offered his thanks and admiration to General Ham and asked that he communicate that to all of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who are carrying out this operation.”

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