Brussels: NATO defence ministers meet Wednesday
and they are expected to discuss ways of ending the alliance`s
aerial campaign in Libya and training Afghan security forces
for a larger role in their country`s war.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who took over from
Robert Gates as Pentagon chief in July, will be making his
first visit to Europe in that role to attend the meeting.
The conference will begin with a series of preparatory
meetings by allied defence and foreign ministers in the run-up
to NATO`s summit in May in Chicago.
Ministers have praised the operation in Libya, which
enabled Muammar`s Gaddafi`s opponents to oust his autocratic
regime. It has been cited as proof that the Cold War alliance
remains relevant to international security.
"Our operation to protect civilians in Libya has been a
great success," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
NATO warplanes have flown nearly 25,000 sorties, including
more than 9,000 strike missions, since the strikes began in
European members and Canada provided most of the strike
aircraft, but the war exposed shortages in Europe`s
capabilities in strategic transport, aerial surveillance and
air refuelling, which had to be supplied by the US.
The campaign also revealed rifts within the Western
military alliance. Only eight of the 28 members participated,
while the others stayed away, mostly for fear of how the new
mission would affect the alliance`s commitment to Afghanistan.