NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the military alliance plans to wrap up its air campaign in Libya on October 31 following the end of fighting in the North African country.
Rasmussen’s comments on Friday followed a meeting of the alliance’s governing body, which took into account the wishes of Libya’s new government and of the United Nations, under whose mandate NATO carried out its operations.
He said NATO would likely make a formal decision to end the mission next week.
Fogh Rasmussen said NATO had no intention of leaving any residual force in or near Libya. “We expect to close down the operation.”
He said it was up to the new government to decide whether to launch an investigation into the hazy circumstances of Gaddafi’s death.
“With regards to Gaddafi, I would expect the new authorities in Libya to live up fully to the basic principles of rule of law and human rights, including full transparency.”
Libya’s National Transitional Government is expected to declare the country “liberated” on Sunday following the death on Thursday of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s former leader, and the end of fighting in Sirte.
NATO warplanes have flown about 26,000 sorties, including over 9,600 strike missions, since the alliance started enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone in March.
They destroyed Libya’s air defenses and over 1,000 tanks, vehicles and guns, as well as Gaddafi’s command and control networks, lending crucial support to opposition fighters with daily airstrikes.
NATO’s Fogh Rasmussen speaks to AJE
In August, Libyan fighters began advancing on Tripoli, with the NATO warplanes providing close air support and destroying any attempts by the defenders to block them, effectively ousting Gaddafi from power.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier on Friday that NATO’s operation in Libya had reached its end, but British officials expressed caution over potential reprisal attacks by remaining Gaddafi loyalists.
“NATO will now meet to decide when the mission is complete, and once we are satisfied that there is no further threat to the Libyan civilians and the Libyans are content, NATO will then arrange to wind up the operation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told BBC radio.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, James Spencer, a defence analyst says the alliance wants to be seen as leaving Libya to the Libyans as quickly as possible. Because one of the biggest problems it faces is that it is seen as interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.
“So on a political front and a financial front they want to get out, because quite frankly its costing a lot of money to keep troops there,” Spencer said.
The US has spent $664 million since May 2011 while France, one of the champions of the attacks has spent $228,9 million since July 2011, according to news reports.
Some American officials have been so frustrated with certain European nations’ lack of commitment that they are questioning NATO’s continued relevance.