Ambassador Ivo Daalder, U.S. Permanent Representative to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), provided a readout of discussions held today at NATO concerning the situation in Libya. Ambassador Daalder said:
"...We've been closely monitoring the situation here in Brussels for many days now, of course, and we met today to have a first briefing update on the military planning for how we, as an alliance, can support international efforts for humanitarian relief, including how we could help on evacuations. This is part of a whole series of plans that the military authorities are looking at -- for example, ways to enforce the arms embargo, how to establish a no-fly zone, but today and the real focus for now is on what can NATO do uniquely, what kind of capabilities does NATO have that are uniquely useful to support the international effort on humanitarian relief.
"And we had that discussion today. I made a number of proposals on the part of the United States that said let's look to our countries now, and let's look at what capabilities does NATO have that can uniquely contribute to this -- things like setting up our own command-and-control capability, which we as a military alliance have to help coordinate an effort to support humanitarian relief; looking at some of the ships that are now engaged in an exercise in the Mediterranean and see whether it's possible to actually re-task them so they would be available to support any humanitarian sealift; looking at NATO-owned sealift assets that might be available so that assistance could be brought -- food and other kinds of aid can be brought into the country, and if necessary, to help evacuate people; looking at airlift assets. NATO has and owns a variety of different airlift assets which could be used, again, to varying assistance and bring out people and bring them to other parts of the world if necessary. And finally, looking at enhancing our surveillance capacity by deploying NATO-owned and operated AWACS systems, the big airborne coordination surveilling aircraft.
"Generally, this was well received within the NAC. The decision was made to indeed increase the surveillance of the NATO-AWACS capability to make it 24/7, to have a better picture of what's really going on in this part of the world, and it was an agreement that we would look at these issues a little closer over the next few days so that when defense ministers meet on Thursday here in Brussels, they may be in a position to make a decision.
"So that was the focus of what we're doing today, just to put it back into context. We're looking at all the options that are out there in some -- in a pretty focused way. But the most immediate options that are now most available and that we're really looking at is how can NATO support the humanitarian effort that is ongoing by the international community."
When asked about a no-fly zone, Ambassador Daalder said, "...We're looking at the no-fly zone in a variety of different options. We haven't actually had a discussion yet. The military authorities haven't finalized that planning. That will happen in the next day or so. We will have a discussion at our level, and then of course, we'll have a more in-depth discussion when the defense ministers come here. And I think the options that they're looking at is a variety of different ways in which you could put a no-fly zone into place, but none of the details are yet available and that's why we really haven't had an in-depth discussion within NATO as such on what it would take, what capabilities are required, and indeed, what the purpose of such a no-fly zone would be."
He continued, "...Our sense is that a no-fly zone is one possibility. But when you really look at what's going on, we have actually seen a decrease in both fighter and overall air activity over the weekend. It really peaked late last week and it's starting to come down. And indeed, to date, the overall air activity has not been the deciding factor in the ongoing unrest; just as you stated, other things are really determining what's happening on the ground. And therefore it's important to understand that no-fly zones are more effective against fighters, but they really have a limited effect against the helicopters or the kind of ground operations that we've seen, which is why a no-fly zone, even if it were to be established, isn't really going to impact what is happening there today. That doesn't mean we shouldn't look at it -- and we are and we will -- but it is not going to be the solution to every problem."
You can read the full transcript here.