By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 - The death of Moammar Gadhafi marks the end of a long and painful era for the Libyan people, President Barack Obama said today.
"For four decades, the Gadhafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist," Obama said in the White House's Rose Garden. "Today we can definitively say that the Gadhafi regime has come to an end. The last major regime strongholds have fallen. The new government is consolidating the control over the country, and one of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more."
The people of Libya took their lessons from the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Libya and revolted against Gadhafi, the president said, but he was too powerful, and his forces moved against the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The world feared a bloodbath and acted quickly, Obama said.
"Faced with the potential of mass atrocities and a call for help from the Libyan people, the United States and our friends and allies stopped Gadhafi's forces in their tracks," he said. "A coalition that included the United States, NATO and Arab nations persevered through the summer to protect Libyan civilians."
Libyan rebels coalesced around the Transitional National Council and broke the back of the regime. "The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility: to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gadhafi's dictatorship," Obama said.
Americans have assisted this effort to protect Libyans from their bloodthirsty leader every step of the way, the president said.
"Our skilled diplomats have helped to lead an unprecedented global response, our brave pilots have flown in Libya's skies, our sailors have provided support off Libya's shores, and our leadership at NATO has helped guide our coalition," he said. "Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end."
This effort shows the strength of American leadership, the president said.
"We've taken out al-Qaida leaders, and we've put them on the path to defeat," he said. "We're winding down the war in Iraq, and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now, [working with friends and allies in Libya], we've demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century."
According to news reports, Libyan rebel forces killed Gadhafi outside Sirte during a 40-minute firefight. U.S. officials have no direct confirmation of Gadhafi's death, but the president did hear from the Libyan prime minister of the Transitional National Council, and White House officials said he has "confidence" in the reports of the dictator's death.
Sporadic fighting continues in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said today. U.S. officials said it is too early to tell when NATO's Operation Unified Protector will conclude, but that it probably will end soon.
Obama ordered U.S. forces to begin Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 19. U.S. and coalition allies launched 110 Tomahawk missiles to begin the operation.
The objectives were to prevent further attacks by Gadhafi regime forces on Libyan citizens and opposition groups, especially around Benghazi, and to degrade the regime's capability to resist the no-fly zone put in place under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
By March 20, the no-fly zone was effectively in place, and by April 1, NATO had assumed command of the operation -- changing the name to Operation Unified Protector. American forces were in support of a large coalition flying strikes into Libya and stopping ships on the high seas that were seeking to break the U.N. embargo on the North African country.
From April 1 to Sept. 30, the Defense Department spent roughly $1.1 billion on the operation. This includes funding daily military operations, munitions, the drawdown of defense supplies and humanitarian assistance, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
Since April 1, U.S. aircraft have flown 7,725 sorties in support of Unified Protector. The number of U.S. strike sorties launched was 1,825, and the number of Predator sorties 145. The number of U.S. strike sorties that dropped ordnance was 397.
"We look forward to the announcement of the country's liberation, the quick formation of an interim government and a stable transition to Libya's first free and fair elections," Obama said.
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