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American Forces Press Service

Gates Calls on NATO Allies to Do More in Libya

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 8, 2011 – NATO is on the road to success in Libya, but the alliance’s member nations must do more, a U.S. government official speaking on background said here today.

In a conference of the alliance’s defense ministers here, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is calling on all members of NATO to increase their participation in Operation Unified Protector, said the official, who is familiar with the closed-door discussions.

The official said Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, told the assembled defense ministers that the momentum is on NATO’s side.

“Without putting a timeframe on it, we know where this is going to end and how this is going to end,” the official said.

NATO ministers unanimously endorsed continuing the operation for as long as it takes and welcomed the decision to extend the mission for 90 days, the official said.

“In order to sustain the operation, it is important that everyone step up to the extent they can,” the official said. “There was, particularly from the countries bearing the brunt of operations so far, a call to think about and consider how they could contribute.”

Gates told the ministers that countries already contributing to the operation may be able to provide more, and that some countries have placed limits on their positions or caveats on the use of their forces. He also called on countries that have the capacities and capabilities but haven’t yet contributed to join the effort, the official said.

In part because only eight allies are bearing the burden of the strike mission in Libya, the official said, Gates called on everyone to look at the capabilities they have and the need to contribute. Crews are getting tired, and stress on the airplanes is significant, the official said.

“If you are in the operation and you are not doing everything you can, you should,” the official said. “And if you are not in the operation, it’s high time you do.”

The big needs are in the air-to-ground strike mission, the refueling mission and the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission. U.S. forces are doing the vast majority of the refueling and ISR missions -- 75 percent and between 70 and 80 percent, respectively.

Gates noted to the defense ministers that NATO nations unanimously agreed to the operation, and that now it is time for all to contribute, the official said. Though no country specifically promised more support, no country closed the door, the official added.

Stavridis told the ministers that he has the platforms and assets available for the next 90 days, the official said.

“The real issue is not whether he can sustain the operation per se, but who is going to share in the burden,” the official said.

The ministers discussed what post-Gadhafi Libya might need and stressed it most likely will be a United Nations effort, the official said. The ministers agreed that NATO could find ways to assist, the official added, but only if there a demonstrable need, a sound legal basis and regional support -- the same requirements for the beginning of operations.

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