STUTTGART, Germany, Mar 20, 2011 —
U.S. military forces are conducting military operations in support of the multi-national effort to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya from attacks by the regime of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi.
Beginning late on March 19, 2011, the U.S. military launched strikes against selected military targets in Libya, launching more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. ships and U.S. and British submarines.
U.S military assets that participated in the strikes include: two U.S. Navy ships and three submarines; 15 U.S. Air Force aircraft, including the B-2 Spirit Bomber and four U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers all of which launched strikes against targets in Libya. These targets include SA-5, SA-3 and SA-2 air defense systems around Libyan airfields and various munitions sites. U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers provided electronic warfare support.
In a Pentagon briefing March 19 announcing the beginning of U.S. military operations, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, said the Tomahawks "struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore."
" … we are creating the conditions to be able to set up the no-fly zone, and once we have established and confirmed that the conditions are right then we will move forward into the next -- one of the next phases of the campaign," Gortney said.
U.S. participation in the multinational coalition is being provided as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn, which is the name for U.S. Africa Command's military planning and operations related to the crisis in Libya. Earlier in March, U.S. AFRICOM coordinated the safe transport aboard military aircraft of more than 1,000 Egyptians who had fled Libya to Tunisia and sought to return to their homelands in Egypt.
"This is an international effort military effort urged by the Libyan people themselves and by other Arab nations," Gortney said. "We are joined by several other allied partners and are committed to supporting their efforts."
President Obama, in his address announcing the start of U.S. military action, said the United States will contribute "our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners."
In a statement late March 19, U.S. AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham discussed U.S. and international objectives. Ham stated, "Our goals are simple: We want to protect innocent civilians, prevent attacks against civilian communities, and deter mass atrocities."
U.S. leaders and their international counterparts have defined clear objectives for military actions, Ham noted. These include:
- A cease-fire must be implemented and all attacks against civilians must stop
- Troops must stop advancing against Benghazi and must be pulled back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya.
- Water, electricity, and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas.
- Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
On February 15, Libyans began joining other Arab populations across North Africa in conducting anti-government protests and demonstrations. However, as days and weeks passed, the Qadhafi regime increasingly used military force against its citizens in efforts to repress the uprising.
On March 12, the Arab League meeting in Cairo asked the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from air attack and declaring that the Qadhafi government had "lost its sovereignty."
An Arab League statement said, "The Arab League asks the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility … to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes."
On March 17, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack while excluding foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.
The international military actions to enforce UNSCR 1973 began immediately following a March 19 Paris diplomatic summit for the support of the Libyan people, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and numerous other world leaders. The summit communiqué stated that "despite the condemnations of the Arab League, African Union, Organization of the Islamic Conference's Secretary-General and European Union, as well as very many governments in the world, the Libyan regime has stepped up its violence in order to impose by force its will on that of its people. This situation is intolerable."
The summit communiqué also stated: "Muammar Gaddafi and those executing his orders must immediately end the acts of violence carried out against civilians, to withdraw from all areas they have entered by force, return to their compounds, and allow full humanitarian access. We reiterate that the Security Council took the view that Libyan regime's forces actions may amount to crimes against humanity and that, to this end, it has referred the matter to the International Criminal Court."
As part of the international response to the current crisis in Libya, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved and ordered the use of U.S.military forces in graduated and sequenced strike operations against the government of Libya (GOL) to prevent Qadhafi forces from continuing to overtake Libyan rebels and seizing Benghazi, protect civilians in Libya, and support implementation of a no-fly zone (NFZ) over Libya.
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn
U.S. Africa Command Commander General Carter Ham is the theater commander of U.S. military forces.
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, commanded by Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III, is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical control of the U.S. portion of enforcement of UNSCR 1973.
"These measures were taken in order to prevent further attacks against Libyan civilians," Locklear said in a statement March 20. "The international community strongly condemns the use of violence against Libyan civilians. We are committed, first and foremost, to the protection and safety of the Libyan people while promoting a resolution to the crisis."
The Joint Task Force Commander is supported by:
Joint Force Maritime Component Commander, Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris who controls maritime assets, located aboard USS Mt. Whitney.
Joint Force Air Component Commander, Maj Gen Margaret Woodward, based in Ramstein Air Base, Germany.