Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday consensus exists among NATO members on how to decide when to end the alliance’s operation in Libya. NATO will make the decision based on guidelines for evaluating the conditions on the ground there, he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on the final day of the alliance defense ministers’ meetings. He listed the guidelines as: What happens in Sirte? (Sirte is the hometown of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and fighting continues there between Qaddafi loyalists and opposition forces.) Does the Qaddafi regime maintain the capability to attack civilians? Does Qaddafi maintain command capability with his regime’s remaining forces? And, are opposition forces able to provide security and confront challenges that may arise? “The decision there will depend a great deal on the recommendations of our commanders who, I think, will review those guidelines and come forward with their recommendations as to when the mission ought to conclude,” explained Panetta. (AFPS report by Cheryl Pellerin)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.