NATO Libya mission will end on Oct. 31

NATO voted today to end its Libya mission Oct. 31, despite a request from Libya's interim leaders to stay through December. Some NATO members may still help in an individual capacity, however.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Flight deck crew work around a Super Etendard fighter jet in preparation for a catapult launch aboard France's flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier earlier this year.

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NATO voted today to end its Libya mission on Oct. 31, although some members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may opt to continue providing assistance on an individual basis. But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he didn't expect the military alliance itself to play a large role in post-war Libya, aside from potentially assisting with reform of its security sector, according to Reuters.

The vote comes a day after the United Nations voted to end its authorization for the NATO mission. Libya's National Transitional Council had requested that NATO stay through the year and delay making its decision to leave until the NTC had assessed whether it would need NATO's help securing its borders, but the alliance went ahead with today's vote nevertheless.

NATO officials said that member states could end up leaving behind some warships in order to enforce the arms embargo, which has been loosened so that the NTC can begin building up its defense arsenal, but it has not been entirely lifted, Reuters reports. Qatar's top general also said earlier this week that it may head a new alliance to provide support for Libya after NATO's departure. The alliance would likely include some current NATO members.

NATO has been clear that it does not want to be involved in any way that requires deploying personnel on the ground in Libya, Reuters reports, although it hasn't rejected the idea of forming a "long-term security cooperation."

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the UN resolution that ended NATO authorization was an important step, but one that caused some trepidation, CNN reports.

"We're very concerned that, as we move forward, that the authorities make maximum effort to swiftly form an inclusive government that incorporates all aspects of Libyan society, and in which the rights of all Libyan people are fully and thoroughly respected, regardless of their gender, their religion, their region of origin," Rice said.

"But for the United States, and, I think, for the United Nations Security Council, this closes what I think history will judge to be a proud chapter in the Security Council's history."

The US role is certainly not over, The Christian Science Monitor reported last week, following NATO's announcement that it was poised to end the Libya mission. The US is helping Libyan officials track down and secure thousands of weapons all over the country and may also assist help with plans for elections sometime in 2012.

The intervention in Libya has been touted by President Barack Obama as a new model for international intervention – one in which the US shares the burden of responsibility and cost with other countries, the Monitor reports. However, calling it an "international" intervention may be overstating the reality, since the military action was dominated by the US, Britain, and France and Germany – a key NATO member – was totally absent. It's so far unclear whether any other countries will continue to work with the NTC after the conclusion of NATO's mission.

Although most hail the intervention as successful, "it caused sharp rifts in the alliance and went on much longer than Western nations had expected or wanted," Reuters reports.

There is also still grumbling about the possibility that NATO exceeded its UN mandate, particularly when it comes to the accusation that it did in fact pursue regime change. Muammar Qaddafi's relatives are filing a war crimes complaint against NATO with the International Criminal Court because they believe the NATO's actions ultimately led to Qaddafi's death, CNN reports.

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