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President Barack Obama

International Coalition Strikes at Libyan Military

19 March 2011
President Obama announced March 19 that he ordered U.S. forces to attack Libyan military targets to halt Libyan attacks on civilians

President Obama announced March 19 that he ordered U.S. forces to attack Libyan military targets to halt Libyan attacks on civilians

President Obama said March 19 that U.S. Navy and coalition ships and submarines have launched missiles against Libyan military forces to support an international coalition to stop attacks on Libyan civilians.

Obama told reporters while on a five-day, three-nation trip to Latin America that he authorized “limited military action in Libya,” and said that it has begun.

The United States will contribute its “unique capabilities at the front end,” he told reporters traveling with him in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19. Obama added that the use of force was not his first choice and “not a choice I make lightly.”

A senior U.S. military official told reporters at a March 19 Pentagon briefing that 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S. Navy ships and submarines and a British ship at Libyan air defense targets in the capital city of Tripoli and the western city of Misrata from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. The senior official also said the strikes were against long-range air defense missiles and early-warning radar sites, and main command-and-control communication centers.

In addition, the coalition was conducting aerial electronic jamming intended to protect coalition aircraft that have begun airstrikes against Libyan forces.

“In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition” that is committed to enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution that called for protecting the Libyan people, Obama said. The coalition includes forces from Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy and the United States, a senior U.S. military official said.

Obama said he consulted with his international security team and the bipartisan leadership of Congress before acting, and he promised to “keep the American people fully informed.”

The president reiterated that the United States will not send in ground troops. “Today, I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya,” he began. “That action has now begun.”

“His attacks on his own people have continued,” Obama said referring to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. “His forces have been on the move, and the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown,” Obama said. As part of a broad coalition that includes European and Arab countries, the United States is “answering the calls of a threatened people,” he added.

The U.N. Security Council voted 10-0 with five abstentions March 17 to authorize the use of all means necessary to halt Qadhafi’s military forces from attacking the Libyan people. The resolution also includes an immediate demand for a cease-fire and a no-fly zone over Libya among other measures.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with European and Arab leaders in Paris March 19 to complete plans to enforce the U.N.-ordered actions. The U.N. resolution came after the Arab League voted March 12 for a no-fly zone over Libya to protect human lives.

“The international community came together to speak with one voice and to deliver a clear and consistent message: Colonel Qadhafi’s campaign of violence against his own people must stop,” Clinton said March 19 in Paris. “The strong votes in the United Nations Security Council underscored this unity.”

“And now the Qadhafi forces face unambiguous terms: a cease-fire must be implemented immediately — that means all attacks against civilians must stop; troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Adjabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya; water, electricity, and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas; humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya,” Clinton added.

Clinton said the Qadhafi government had indicated there would be a cease-fire, but the reality on the ground is continued violence.

“Colonel Qadhafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on,” she added.