the beginning of Operation Unified Protector in March, critics have
questioned whether the U.S. could afford to open a third front. The
Congressional Research Services estimate the Afghanistan war has cost
nearly $500 billion so far. With Iraq, the figure easily tops $1
In the first week of Libya operations, bombs were
dropped from B-2 stealth planes flown from Missouri and roughly 200
missiles launched from submarines in the Mediterranean, causing alarm
that any extended campaign would quickly cost billions more.
after the U.S. military ramped up the operation, other NATO countries
shouldered most of the air burden. Americans took a supporting role:
aerial refueling tankers, electronic jamming, and surveillance.
The behind-the-scenes role was something President Obama celebrated in remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday.
putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our
objectives and our NATO mission will soon come to an end," Obama said.
to when that mission would end, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh
Rasmussen said in a statement NATO issued from Brussels, "We will
terminate our mission in coordination with the United Nations and the
National Transitional Council."
and NATO officials steadily maintained their mission was never to hunt,
capture or kill the Libyan leader. The mission, they said, was to
enforce the arms embargo, establish and hold a no-fly zone, and take
actions to protect civilians from attack or the threat of attack.
last directive seemed to give plenty of reason to target Libya's top
commander. But Pentagon officials said for months that if Qaddafi should
happen to be at one of those locations when NATO missiles strike, so be
Since the operation began on March 31, getting to Qaddafi's
final stand required 7,725 air sorties and 1,845 strike sorties, 397 of
which dropped ordnance, and 145 Predator drone strikes.
NATO aircraft, including those supplied by the U.S., totaled 26,089 sorties and 9,618 strike sorties through Wednesday.
More than 70 U.S. aircraft have supported the operation, including Predator drones.
NATO flew 67 sorties and 16 strikes sorties over Libya one day before Qaddafi was killed.
NATO mission also employed submarines, aircraft carriers, amphibious
assault ships, destroyers, frigates, and supply ships--as many as 21
vessels at one time.
Additionally, as of one week ago, the U.S.
had sold participating countries in the operation roughly $250 million
in ammunition, parts, fuel, technical assistance, and other support,
according to the Pentagon.
Several members of Congress put out
statements celebrating Qaddafi's downfall but did not comment on the
cost. Several offices contacted did not provide additional reaction to
the monetary figures.
But presidential candidate Ambassador Jon
Huntsman did question the cost of the Libya operation. His statement on
Thursday said, "I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve
our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and
rebuilding our own economic core here at home."