Thursday, November 3, 2011

NATO Ready To Help Libyan Defense, Security: Rasmussen

BRUSSELS - Two days after NATO completed its last Libyan air mission as part of the alliance's Unified Protector operation, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced here that NATO is willing to help reform the defense and security sectors, "if so requested" by the Libyan authorities.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks in Tripoli at an Oct. 31 news conference, as Libyan National Transitioanl Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil listens on. Rasmussen says NATO is willing to help with reforms in Libya. (Marco Longari / Agence France-Presse)
"Libya is not alone," he said. "They can, if they wish, ask the international community, including individual allies and nations, for support."
During a visit last week to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Rasmussen met with Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC). During the talks, Rasmussen made it clear that NATO was ready to help with defense and security reforms, but it has not yet received a formal request for help, he said.
"We would be prepared to offer the same kind of assistance as we have offered to other partners within defense and security sector reforms," Rasmussen said. "That is overall to help put defense and security agencies under civilian and democratic control. We can also help in organizing modern defense structures," he said, citing examples such as helping Libya build a defense ministry or organize the general staff of its armed forces.
A number of NATO allies have gone through a similar transition from dictatorship to democracy and therefore have valuable experience to offer, Rasmussen said. It is "of utmost importance" that all the different militias in Libya are put under a common command and control, he said. "One of the big challenges for the NTC" is "to build such unified armed forces in Libya."
Preventing Proliferation
Libya must play a responsible role in the region, including "preventing the spread of arms through North Africa," Rasmussen said.
On Oct. 31, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that included a call for Libya "to take all necessary steps to prevent the proliferation of all arms and related materiel of all types, in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles, to ensure their proper custody, as well as to meet Libya's arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation obligations under international law."
NATO has no estimate of the number of missiles that are missing, Rasmussen said.
Asked about arms smuggling in the region, he said he had no information, but he noted that even though NATO's Unified Protector mission is over, "according to [previous] UNSC resolutions, the arms embargo is still in place and it is the responsibility of individual nations now to enforce the arms embargo, including Libya's neighbors."
Under the latest resolution, it is "the responsibility of the new political authorities in Libya to make sure that all weapons are properly controlled, monitored, secured and also destroyed if necessary," Rasmussen said.
"It is not for NATO any longer to enforce the arms embargo as an alliance [as its mission is over], but it is still the responsibility of individual allies to implement the U.N. resolution as far as the arms embargo is concerned," Rasmussen said. "Upon request from the new authorities in Libya, it is possible for individual nations, including NATO allies, to assist the new authorities in Libya."
Enforcement of the arms embargo is not just for Libya and its neighbors or countries in the region but is also the responsibility of all members of the United Nations, including NATO allies, he said.
NATO conducted its operations in Libya in such a manner that "we have no confirmed civil casualties caused by NATO" and "have really minimized the amount of collateral damage," Rasmussen said.
There are cities in Libya "where you will see a lot of damage," he conceded, "but actually that's rather caused by fighting on the ground between the NTC and Gadhafi forces than caused by NATO airstrikes. Our airstrikes have been precision strikes. We have hit legitimate military targets and minimized the collateral damage and, for that reason, I don't see any need for further investigation. We have fully implemented the U.N. mandate to the letter."
On Afghanistan, Rasmussen said that "spectacular attacks capture the headlines" but "do not allow the enemies of Afghanistan to seize and hold ground."
Enemy attacks were down 26 percent from July to September this year, compared with the same period last year, he said. NATO has achieved its target of having trained 306,000 Afghan soldiers and police by October this year, Rasmussen said. He noted that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will soon announce the next group of provinces and districts to be handed over to Afghan security lead and that a quarter of the Afghan population already has day-to-day security provided by Afghan forces.
As for Iran, Rasmussen said NATO had no intention to intervene.
"NATO supports international efforts to pursue political and diplomatic solutions to the Iran problem," he said.

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