|2011 Military intervention in Libya|
|Part of the First Libyan Civil War and the Operation Unified Protector|
The no-fly zone over Libya as well as bases and warships which were involved in the intervention
States enforcing UNSC Resolution 1973:
|Commanders and leaders|
Adm. Édouard Guillaud
Dr Liam Fox
Gen. David Richards
Lt. Gen. André Deschamps
Operation Odyssey Dawn:
Barack H. Obama
Hillary R. Clinton
Gen. Carter Ham
Ignazio La Russa
Gen. Claudio Graziano
Operation Unified Protector:
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Adm. James G. Stavridis
Lt Gen. Charles Bouchard
Lt Gen. Ralph Jodice
Vice Adm. Rinaldo Veri
Muammar Gaddafi †|
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
(captured 19 November)
Khamis Gaddafi †
Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr †
Ali Sharif al-Rifi
200 medium/heavy SAM launchers|
220 light SAM launchers
600 anti-aircraft guns
|Casualties and losses|
1 airman killed in traffic accident in Italy
1 USN MQ-8 shot down
3 Dutch Naval Aviators captured (later released)
1 Royal Netherlands Navy Lynx captured
1 USAF F-15E crashed (Mechanical failure)
1 UAEAF F-16 damaged upon landing
5,900 military targets including
72+ civilians killed (according to Human Rights Watch)|
40 civilians killed in Tripoli (Vatican claim)
|The US military claimed it had no knowledge of civilian casualties.|
On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, in response to events during the First Libyan Civil War. With ten votes in favour and five abstentions, the UN Security Council's intent was to have "an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute “crimes against humanity” ... [imposing] a ban on all flights in the country's airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on the [Muammar] Qadhafi regime and its supporters."
American and British naval forces fired over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, while the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force undertook sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. French jets launched air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles. The intervention did not employ foreign ground troops.
The Libyan government response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi's forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane despite the country possessing 30 heavy SAM batteries, 17 medium SAM batteries, 55 light SAM batteries (a total of 400–450 launchers, including 130–150 2K12 Kub launchers and some 9K33 Osa launchers), and 440–600 short-ranged air-defense guns. The official names for the interventions by the coalition members are Opération Harmattan by France; Operation Ellamy by the United Kingdom; Operation Mobile for the Canadian participation and Operation Odyssey Dawn for the United States. Italy initially opposed the intervention but then offered to take part in the operations on the condition that NATO took the leadership of the mission instead of individual countries (particularly France). As this condition was later met, Italy shared its bases and intelligence with the allies.
From the beginning of the intervention, the initial coalition of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, UK and US expanded to nineteen states, with newer states mostly enforcing the no-fly zone and naval blockade or providing military logistical assistance. The effort was initially largely led by France and the United Kingdom, with command shared with the United States. NATO took control of the arms embargo on 23 March, named Operation Unified Protector. An attempt to unify the military command of the air campaign (whilst keeping political and strategic control with a small group), first failed over objections by the French, German, and Turkish governments. On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remains with coalition forces. The handover occurred on 31 March 2011 at 06:00 UTC (08:00 local time). NATO flew 26,500 sorties since it took charge of the Libya mission on 31 March 2011.
Fighting in Libya ended in late October following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, and NATO stated it would end operations over Libya on 31 October 2011. Libya's new government requested that its mission be extended to the end of the year, but on 27 October, the Security Council unanimously voted to end NATO's mandate for military action on 31 October.
Both Libyan officials and international states and organizations called for a no-fly zone over Libya in light of allegations that Muammar Gaddafi's military had conducted airstrikes against Libyan rebels in the Libyan Civil War.
Initial NATO planning for a possible no-fly zone took place in late February and early March, especially by NATO members France and the United Kingdom. France and the UK were early supporters of a no-fly zone and had sufficient airpower to impose a no-fly zone over the rebel-held areas, although they might need additional assistance for a more extensive exclusion zone.
The US had the air assets necessary to enforce a no-fly zone, but was cautious about supporting such an action prior to obtaining a legal basis for violating Libya's sovereignty. Furthermore, due to the sensitive nature of military action by the US against an Arab nation, the US sought Arab participation in the enforcement of a no-fly zone.
At a congressional hearing, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that "a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences ... and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that's the way it starts."
On 19 March, the deployment of French fighter jets over Libya began, and other states began their individual operations. Phase One started the same day with the involvement of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.
On 24 March, NATO ambassadors agreed that NATO would take command of the no-fly zone enforcement, while other military operations remained the responsibility of the group of states previously involved, with NATO expected to take control as early as 26 March. The decision was made after meetings of NATO members to resolve disagreements over whether military operations in Libya should include attacks on ground forces. The decision created a two-level power structure overseeing military operations. In charge politically was a committee, led by NATO, that included all states participating in enforcing the no-fly zone, while NATO alone was responsible for military action. Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard has been appointed to command the NATO military mission.
After the death of Muammar Gaddafi on 20 October 2011, it was announced that the NATO mission would end on 31 October.
Before NATO took full command of operations at 06:00 GMT on 31 March 2011, the military intervention in the form of a no-fly zone and naval blockade was split between different national operations:
These are the forces committed in alphabetical order.
Main article: Timeline of the 2011 military intervention in Libya
Main articles: International reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya, Protests against the 2011 military intervention in Libya, and US domestic reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya
Since the start of the campaign, there have been allegations of violating the limits imposed upon the intervention by Resolution 1973 and by US law. At the end of May 2011, Western troops were captured on film in Libya, despite Resolution 1973 specifically forbidding "a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory". In the article however, it reports that armed Westerners but not Western troops were on the ground.
In a March 2011 Gallup poll, 47% of Americans had approved of military action against Libya, compared with 37% disapproval.
On 10 June, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates criticized some of the NATO member nations for their efforts, or lack thereof, to participate in the intervention in Libya. Gates singled out Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands for criticism. He praised Canada, Norway and Denmark, saying that although those three countries had only provided 12% of the aircraft to the operation, their aircraft had conducted one-third of the strikes.
On 24 June, the US House voted against Joint Resolution 68, which would have authorized continued US military involvement in the NATO campaign for up to one year. The majority of Republicans voted against the resolution, with some questioning US interests in Libya and others criticizing the White House for overstepping its authority by conducting a military expedition without Congressional backing. House Democrats were split on the issue, with 115 voting in favor of and 70 voting against. Despite the failure of the President to receive legal authorization from Congress, the Obama administration continued its military campaign, carrying out the bulk of NATO's operations until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October.
On 9 August, the head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova deplored a NATO strike on Libyan State TV, Al-Jamahiriya, that killed 3 journalists and wounded others. Bokova declared that media outlets should not be the target of military activities. On 11 August, after the NATO airstrike on Majer (on 9 August) that allegedly killed 85 civilians, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to do as much as possible to avoid killing innocent people.
The military intervention in Libya has been cited by the Council on Foreign Relations as an example of the responsibility to protect policy adopted by the UN at the 2005 World Summit. According to Gareth Evans, "[t]he international military intervention (SMH) in Libya is not about bombing for democracy or Muammar Gaddafi's head. Legally, morally, politically, and militarily it has only one justification: protecting the country's people." However, the Council also noted that the policy had been used only in Libya, and not in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, undergoing a political crisis at the time, or in response to protests in Yemen. A CFR expert, Stewert Patrick, said that "There is bound to be selectivity and inconsistency in the application of the responsibility to protect norm given the complexity of national interests at stake in...the calculations of other major powers involved in these situations." In January 2012, the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the International Legal Assistance Consortium published a report describing alleged human rights violations and accusing NATO of war crimes.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2012, 75% of Libyans were in favor of the NATO intervention, compared to 22% who were opposed. A 2011 Orb International poll also found broad support for the intervention, with 85% of Libyans saying that they strongly supported the action taken to remove the Ghadafi regime.
On 3 June 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution, calling for a withdrawal of the United States military from the air and naval operations in and around Libya. It demanded that the administration provide, within 14 days, explanation of why the President Barack Obama did not come to Congress for permission to continue to take part in the mission.
On 13 June, the House passed resolution prohibiting the use of funds for operations in the conflict, with 110 Democrats and 138 Republicans voting in favor.
On 24 June, the House rejected Joint Resolution 68, which would have provided the Obama administration with authorization to continue military operations in Libya for up to one year.
The military intervention was criticized, both at the time and subsequnetly, on a variety of grounds.
An in depth investigation into the Libyan intervention and its aftermath was conducted by the U.K. Parliament's House of Commons' cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee, the final conclusions of which were released on 14 September 2016 in a report titled Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK's future policy options. The report was strongly critical of the British government's role in the intervention. The report concluded that the government "failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element." In particular, the committee concluded that Gaddafi was not planning to massacre civilians, and that reports to the contrary were propagated by rebels and Western governments. Western leaders trumpeted the threat of the massacre of civilians without factual basis, according to the parliamentary report, for example, it had been reported to Western leaders that on 17 March 2011 Gaddafi had given Benghazi rebels the offer of peaceful surrender and also that when Gaddafi had earlier retaken other rebel cities there were no massacres of non-combatants.
Alison Pargeter, a freelance Middle East and North Africa (MENA) analyst, told the Committee that when Gaddafi's forces re-took Ajdabiya they did not attack civilians, and this had taken place in February 2011, shortly before the NATO intervention. She also said that Gaddafi's approach towards the rebels had been one of "appeasement", with the release of Islamist prisoners and promises of significant development assistance for Benghazi.
According to the report, France's motive for initiating the intervention was economic and political as well as humanitarian. In a briefing to Hillary Clinton on 2 April 2011, her adviser Sidney Blumenthal reported that, according to high-level French intelligence, France's motives for overthrowing Gaddafi were to increase France's share of Libya's oil production, strengthen French influence in Africa, and improve President Sarkozy's standing at home. The report also highlighted how Islamic extremists had a large influence on the uprising, which was largely ignored by the West to the future detriment of Libya. The American Libertarian Party opposed the U.S. military intervention and LP Chair Mark Hinkle in a statement described the position of the Libertarian Party: "President Obama's decision to order military attacks on Libya is only surprising to those who actually think he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He has now ordered bombing strikes in six different countries, adding Libya to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen." Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader branded President Obama as a "war criminal" and called for his impeachment.
Some critics of Western military intervention suggested that resources—not democratic or humanitarian concerns—were the real impetus for the intervention, among them a journalist of London Arab nationalist newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the Russian TV network RT and the (then-)leaders of Venezuela and Zimbabwe, Hugo Chávez and Robert Mugabe. Gaddafi's Libya, despite its relatively small population, was known to possess vast resources, particularly in the form of oil reserves and financial capital.[better source needed] Libya is a member of OPEC and one of the world's largest oil producers. It was producing roughly 1.6 million barrels a day before the war, nearly 70% of them through the state-owned National Oil Corporation. Additionally, the country's sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, was one of the largest in the world, controlling assets worth approximately US$56 billion, including over 100 tons of gold reserves in the Central Bank of Libya.
The intervention prompted a widespread wave of criticism from several world leaders, including: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (who said he supported the rebels but not Western intervention), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (who referred to Gaddafi as a "martyr"), South African President Jacob Zuma,[failed verification] and President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (who referred to the Western nations as "vampires"), as well as the governments of Raúl Castro in Cuba, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Kim Jong-il in North Korea, Hifikepunye Pohamba in Namibia, and others. Gaddafi himself referred to the intervention as a "colonial crusade ... capable of unleashing a full-scale war", a sentiment that was echoed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: "[UNSC Resolution 1973] is defective and flawed...It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades." President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China said, "Dialogue and other peaceful means are the ultimate solutions to problems," and added, "If military action brings disaster to civilians and causes a humanitarian crisis, then it runs counter to the purpose of the UN resolution." Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was critical of the intervention as well, rebuking the coalition in a speech at the UN in September 2011. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, despite the substantial role his country played in the NATO mission, also spoke out against getting involved: "I had my hands tied by the vote of the parliament of my country. But I was against and I am against this intervention which will end in a way that no-one knows" and added "This wasn't a popular uprising because Gaddafi was loved by his people, as I was able to see when I went to Libya."
Despite its stated opposition to NATO intervention, Russia abstained from voting on Resolution 1973 instead of exercising its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council; four other powerful nations also abstained from the vote—India, China, Germany, and Brazil—but of that group only China has the same veto power.
Moreover, criticisms have been made on the way the operation was led. According to Michael Kometer and Stephen Wright, the outcome of the Libyan intervention was reached by default rather than by design. It appears that there was an important lack of consistent political guidance caused particularly by the vagueness of the UN mandate and the ambiguous consensus among the NATO-led coalition. This lack of clear political guidance was translated into an incoherent military planning on the operational level. Such a gap may impact the future NATO's operations that will probably face trust issues.
In 2015 through 2016 the British parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee conducted an extensive and highly critical inquiry into the British government's involvement in the intervention. It concluded that the early threat to civilians had been overstated and that the significant Islamist element in the rebel forces had not been recognised, due to an intelligence failure. By summer 2011 the initial limited intervention to protect Libyan civilians had become a policy of regime change. However, that new policy did not include proper support for a new government, leading to a political and economic collapse in Libya and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee saw no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya and it "selectively took elements of Muammar Gaddafi's rhetoric at face value; and it failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion. UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence". The former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for this British policy failure.
A 2013 paper by Alan Kuperman argued that NATO went beyond its remit of providing protection for civilians and instead supported the rebels by engaging in regime change. It argued that NATO's intervention likely extended the length (and thus damage) of the civil war, which Kuperman argued could have ended in less than two months without NATO intervention. The paper argued that the intervention was based on a misperception of the danger Gadaffi's forces posed to the civilian population, which Kuperman suggests was caused by existing bias against Gadaffi due to his past actions (such as support for terrorism), sloppy and sensationalistic journalism during the early stages of the war and propaganda from anti-government forces. Kuperman suggests that this demonization of Gadaffi, which was used to justify the intervention, ended up discouraging efforts to accept a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, turning a humanitarian intervention into a dedicated regime change.
Micah Zenko argues that the Obama administration deceived the public by pretending the intervention was intended to protect Libyan civilians instead of achieving regime change when "in truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start".
|Funds spent by Foreign Powers on War in Libya.|
|United Kingdom||US$336–1,500 million||September 2011 (estimate)|
|United States||US$896–1,100 million||October 2011|
|Italy||€700 million EUR||October 2011|
|France||€450 million EUR||September 2011|
|Turkey||US$300 million||July 2011|
|Denmark||€120 million EUR||November 2011|
|Belgium||€58 million EUR||October 2011|
|Spain||€50 million EUR||September 2011|
|Sweden||US$50 million||October 2011|
|Canada||$50 million CAD incremental
Over $347.5 million CAD total
On 22 March 2011, BBC News presented a breakdown of the likely costs to the UK of the mission. Journalist Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, estimated that flying a Tornado GR4 would cost about £35,000 an hour (c. US$48,000), so the cost of patrolling one sector of Libyan airspace would be £2M–3M (US$2.75M–4.13M) per day. Conventional airborne missiles would cost £800,000 each and Tomahawk cruise missiles £750,000 each. Professor Malcolm Charmers of the Royal United Services Institute similarly suggested that a single cruise missile would cost about £500,000, while a single Tornado sortie would cost about £30,000 in fuel alone. If a Tornado was downed the replacement cost would be upwards of £50m. By 22 March the US and UK had already fired more than 110 cruise missiles. UK Chancellor George Osborne had said that the MoD estimate of the operation cost was "tens rather than hundreds of millions". On 4 April Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton said that the RAF was planning to continue operations over Libya for at least six months.
The total number of sorties flown by NATO numbered more than 26,000, an average of 120 sorties per day. 42% of the sorties were strike sorties, which damaged or destroyed approximately 6,000 military targets. At its peak, the operation involved more than 8,000 servicemen and women, 21 NATO ships in the Mediterranean and more than 250 aircraft of all types. By the end of the operation, NATO had conducted over 3,000 hailings at sea and almost 300 boardings for inspection, with 11 vessels denied transit to their next port of call. Eight NATO and two non-NATO countries flew strike sorties. Of these, Denmark, Canada, and Norway together were responsible for 31%, the United States was responsible for 16%, Italy 10%, France 33%, Britain 21%, and Belgium, Qatar, and the UAE the remainder.
Since the end of the war, which overthrew Gaddafi, there has been violence involving various militias and the new state security forces. The violence has escalated into the Second Libyan Civil War. Critics described the military intervention as "disastrous" and accused it of destabilizing North Africa, leading to the rise of Islamic extremist groups in the region. Libya became what many scholars described as a failed state — a state that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly.
Libya has become the main exit for migrants trying to get to Europe. In September 2015, South African President Jacob Zuma said that "consistent and systematic bombing by NATO forces undermined the security and caused conflicts that are continuing in Libya and neighbouring countries ... It was the actions taken, the bombarding of Libya and killing of its leader, that opened the flood gates."
U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged there had been issues with following up the conflict planning, commenting in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that British Prime Minister David Cameron had allowed himself to be "distracted by a range of other things".