Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the best face possible on NATO's decision on Thursday to take over enforcing the Libya no-fly zone but its failure to take full responsibility for protecting civilians.
Speaking after the compromise decision reached by the 28 members of the Western security alliance, Clinton said military planners had been authorized to take on the "broader civilian protection mission" and NATO was well suited to do so.
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NATO countries agreed to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya to protect civilians against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces, but fell short of taking full command of all military operations in the oil-exporting North African state.
Speaking at the State Department, Clinton said Gaddafi's forces had been pushed back, a humanitarian disaster had been averted in Benghazi, the rebels' stronghold, and that Gaddafi's air force and air defenses were now largely ineffective.
While acknowledging the United States' primacy in the early days of the military operation, Clinton said there had been a significant drop in the number of U.S. aircraft flying missions as those of other nations increased.
"Today we are taking the next step. We have agreed, along with our NATO allies, to transition command and control for the no-fly zone to NATO," she said.
"All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission," she added. "NATO is well-suited to coordinating this international effort."