Despite appeals from Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) to stay on at least until late November, NATO has announced it will end the its mission in Libya on October 31.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that until that date, "together with our partners, we will continue to monitor the situation. And if needed, we will continue to respond to threats to civilians."
The NATO announcement comes just a little more than week after longtime Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed by NTC fighters outside his hometown of Sirte.
Qaddafi's death was seen by many as officially signaling that Libya had been liberated, though the NTC waited several days to make such an announcement.
NTC officials have called on NATO to remain in Libya for another month, citing the need for support as anti-Qaddafi fighters were disarmed and in the event there might still be some Qaddafi loyalist forces in Libya that could launch attacks.
More Than A No-Fly Zone?
NATO's role in Libya was instrumental in the NTC triumph. NTC forces were on the defensive before NATO forces moved in March to enforce a UN mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect Libyan civilians.
Some questioned whether NATO was strictly limiting its operations to the protection of civilians or actually helping anti-Qaddafi fighters by keeping government troops pinned down.
Rasmussen described the mission in Libya as one of the "most successful" in NATO's history.
"We launched this complex operation faster than ever before. We conducted it effectively, flexibly, and precisely with many partners from the region and beyond," Rasmussen said.
"And we are concluding it in a considered and controlled manner -- because our military job is now done."
Rasmussen said he did not foresee NATO playing any major role in postconflict Libya. NATO officials say individual member countries might help the new Libyan government in the transition to democracy or provide security assistance.
Rasmussen's announcement ending the NATO mission in Libya comes after the UN Security Council voted on October 27 to end the mandate for NATO operations in Libya.
Qaddafi Son To ICC?
In related news, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said that his office is in "informal contact" with Qaddafi's fugitive son Saif al-Islam over his possible surrender to the war crimes court.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement that "through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif. The office of the prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide."
Saif al-Islam is believed to have fled across Libya's southern border into Niger.
compiled from agency reports