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With Gadhafi's Death, So Ends NATO's Campaign


As we said, NATO is winding down its military mission in Libya and NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels say that the air campaign will end by October 31, seven months after it began. We're joined now by the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, Ambassador Ivo Daalder, who is in Brussels. Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: With Moammar Gadhafi dead and Libya's interim administration just about to declare national liberation, what's air support doing until the end of the month?

DAALDER: Well, we're basically in what we would call an over watch period. We're monitoring the situation from the air to make sure that there is no organized violence anywhere inside Libya that can threaten civilians. We just thought it was better rather than immediately shutting everything down to take a little bit of time to make sure that the situation on the ground is indeed what the commanders now believe it is, which is that the organized threat of violence against civilians has disappeared, is no longer in Libya and the mission therefore has been accomplished.

SIMON: Mr. Ambassador, as you note, this is a mission that began to prevent civilians from being slaughtered. How does it wind up with reportedly a NATO air strike on the convoy that included Moammar Gadhafi?

DAALDER: Well, the kind of activities that NATO has been engaged for all of the seven months is to make sure that there are no organized military units and the command and control of those units that could threaten and attack civilians. So, every time NATO was able to see large convoy of vehicles with large degrees of armaments, that is a threat to civilians or a potential threat to civilians. It wasn't the question of going after Gadhafi; it was a question of making sure that no organized military units could pose threats to civilians. And when you see a large convoy of vehicles, that is the kind of threat that NATO has been going after for the last seven months. And it went after it when it saw the last convoy a few days ago.

SIMON: Do you think it's important to have some kind of investigation into the circumstances of Moammar Gadhafi's death?

DAALDER: Yeah. The U.S. clearly does support and welcome the TNC's intent to do an investigation and that we expect and urge it to be as open and transparent as possible. This is, of course, for the TNC to resolve. It's not for NATO to resolve. NATO was not targeting Gadhafi. It was making sure that civilians could be protected by ensuring that there were not organized military units threatening them.

SIMON: Is NATO offering Libya any other kind of security support or training in the months ahead?

DAALDER: This is a discussion that may take place in the future. It's not something that's' happening today. We're focused on the mission and wrapping it up, as you said, by the end of the month. And then we will have a discussion, if so desired, by the new Libyan authorities about what kind of relationship NATO might have with Libya in the future.

SIMON: Ambassador Daalder, how do you feel about Europe taking the leading military role on this mission?

DAALDER: I think this was one of the most positive elements of this operation. This was a true alliance effort in which the European countries and partner countries of NATO flew about 75 percent of the missions. The United States flew 25 percent. That's a big deal. It means that in a threat that is very close to European territory - indeed, it's 130 kilometers from NATO territory, is where Libya is located - that the Europeans took on the burden of making sure that this mission could be accomplished.

SIMON: Is there a lesson you draw from this NATO mission right now, Ambassador Daalder?

DAALDER: Well, the good lesson is that if we have the kind of international support, both in terms of the legal basis at the U.N. and in terms of the regional support that we were getting from the Arab League, we can forge a wide, broad international coalition and act together in a direct and effective manner. This is and will be regarded, I think, in history as the most precise air campaign ever conducted, in which there were virtually no collateral damage and no casualties on the side of NATO or the United States.

SIMON: U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, speaking with us from Brussels. Thanks so much.

DAALDER: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.