From the beginning of the intervention, the initial coalition of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, UK and US expanded to nineteen states, with newer states mostly enforcing the no-fly zone and naval blockade or providing military logistical assistance. The effort was initially largely led by France and the United Kingdom, with command shared with the United States. NATO took control of the arms embargo on 23 March, named Operation Unified Protector. An attempt to unify the military command of the air campaign (whilst keeping political and strategic control with a small group), first failed over objections by the French, German, and Turkish governments. On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remains with coalition forces. The handover occurred on 31 March 2011 at 06:00 UTC (08:00 local time). NATO flew 26,500 sorties since it took charge of the Libya mission on 31 March 2011.
Fighting in Libya ended in late October following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, and NATO stated it would end operations over Libya on 31 October 2011. Libya's new government requested that its mission be extended to the end of the year, but on 27 October, the Security Council voted to end NATO's mandate for military action on 31 October.
21 February 2011: Libyan deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi called "on the UN to impose a no-fly zone on all Tripoli to cut off all supplies of arms and mercenaries to the regime."
23 February 2011: French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushed for the European Union (EU) to pass sanctions against Gaddafi (freezing Gaddafi family funds abroad) and demand he stop attacks against civilians.
25 February 2011: Sarkozy said Gaddafi "must go".
28 February 2011: British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed the idea of a no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi from "airlifting mercenaries" and "using his military aeroplanes and armoured helicopters against civilians."
1 March 2011: The US Senate unanimously passes non-binding Senate resolution S.RES.85 urging the United Nations Security Council to impose a Libyan no-fly zone and encouraging Gaddafi to step down. The US had naval forces positioned off the coast of Libya, as well as forces already in the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
7 March 2011: US Ambassador to NATOIvo Daalder announced that NATO decided to step up surveillance missions of E-3 AWACS aircraft to twenty-four hours a day. On the same day, it was reported that an anonymous UN diplomat confirmed to Agence France Presse that France and Britain were drawing up a resolution on the no-fly zone that would be considered by the UN Security Council during the same week. The Gulf Cooperation Council also on that day called upon the UN Security Council to "take all necessary measures to protect civilians, including enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya."
9 March 2011: The head of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, "pleaded for the international community to move quickly to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, declaring that any delay would result in more casualties". Three days later, he stated that if pro-Gaddafi forces reached Benghazi, then they would kill "half a million" people. He stated, "If there is no no-fly zone imposed on Gaddafi's regime, and his ships are not checked, we will have a catastrophe in Libya."
10 March 2011: France recognized the Libyan NTC as the legitimate government of Libya soon after Sarkozy met with them in Paris. This meeting was arranged by Bernard-Henri Lévy.
11 March 2011: Cameron joined forces with Sarkozy after Sarkozy demanded immediate action from international community for a no-fly zone against air attacks by Gaddafi.
12 March 2011: Nine out of the twenty-two Arab League members "called on the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya in a bid to protect civilians from air attack". The Arab League's request was announced by Omani Foreign MinisterYusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, who stated that all member states present at the meeting agreed with the proposal. On 12 March, thousands of Libyan women marched in the streets of the rebel-held town of Benghazi, calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
14 March 2011: In Paris at the Élysée Palace, before the summit with the G8 Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sarkozy, who is also the president of the G8, along with French Foreign MinisterAlain Juppé met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and impressed her upon to push for intervention in Libya.
15 March 2011: A resolution for a no-fly zone was proposed by Nawaf Salam, Lebanon's Ambassador to the UN. The resolution was immediately backed by France and the United Kingdom.
17 March 2011: The UN Security Council, acting under the authority of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, approved a no-fly zone by a vote of ten in favour, zero against, and five abstentions, via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The five abstentions were: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany. Less than twenty-four hours later, Libya announced that it would halt all military operations in response to the UN Security Council resolution.
18 March 2011: The Libyan foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, said that he had declared a ceasefire, attributing the UN resolution. However, artillery shelling on Misrata and Ajdabiya continued, and government soldiers continued approaching Benghazi. Government troops and tanks entered the city on 19 March. Artillery and mortars were also fired into the city. US President Barack Obama held a meeting with eighteen senior lawmakers at the White House on the afternoon of 18 March
19 March 2011: French forces began the military intervention in Libya, later joined by coalition forces with strikes against armoured units south of Benghazi and attacks on Libyan air-defence systems, as UN Security Council Resolution 1973 called for using "all necessary means" to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas from attack, imposed a no-fly zone, and called for an immediate and with-standing cease-fire, while also strengthening travel bans on members of the regime, arms embargoes, and asset freezes.
21 March 2011: Obama sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
24 March 2011: In telephone negotiations, French foreign minister Alain Juppé agreed to let NATO take over all military operations on 29 March at the latest, allowing Turkey to veto strikes on Gaddafi ground forces from that point forward. Later reports stated that NATO would take over enforcement of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo, but discussions were still under way about whether NATO would take over the protection of civilians mission. Turkey reportedly wanted the power to veto airstrikes, while France wanted to prevent Turkey from having such a veto.
25 March 2011: NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Naples took command of the no-fly zone over Libya and combined it with the ongoing arms embargo operation under the name Operation Unified Protector.
28 March 2011: Obama addressed the American people on Libya.
Initial NATO planning for a possible no-fly zone took place in late February and early March, especially by NATO members France and the United Kingdom. France and the UK were early supporters of a no-fly zone and have sufficient airpower to impose a no-fly zone over the rebel-held areas, although they might need additional assistance for a more extensive exclusion zone.
The US had the air assets necessary to enforce a no-fly zone, but was cautious to support such an action prior to obtaining a legal basis for violating Libya's sovereignty. However, due to the sensitive nature of military action by the US against an Arab nation, the US sought Arab participation in the enforcement of a no-fly zone.
At a congressional hearing, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that "a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences ... and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that's the way it starts."
On 19 March, the deployment of French fighter jets over Libya began, and other states began their individual operations. Phase One started the same day with the involvement of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.
On 24 March, NATO ambassadors agreed that NATO would take command of the no-fly zone enforcement, while other military operations remained the responsibility of the group of states previously involved, with NATO expected to take control as early as 26 March. The decision was made after meetings of NATO members to resolve disagreements over whether military operations in Libya should include attacks on ground forces. The decision will create a two-level power structure overseeing military operations. In charge politically will be a committee, led by NATO, that includes all states participating in enforcing the no-fly zone, while NATO alone will be responsible for military action. Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard has been appointed to command the NATO military mission.
These are the forces committed in alphabetical order.
BEL: Six F-16 Falcon fighter jets of the Belgian Air Component, were already stationed at Araxos, Greece for an exercise, and flew their first mission in the afternoon of 21 March. They monitored the no-fly zone throughout the operation and have successfully attacked ground targets multiple times since 27 March, all of them without collateral damage. The Belgian Naval ComponentminehunterNarcis was part of NATO's SNMCMG1 at the start of the operation and assisted in NATO's naval blockade from 23 March. The ship was later replaced by the minehunterLobelia in August.
BGR: The Bulgarian NavyWielingen-class frigate Drazki participated in the naval blockade, along with a number of "special naval forces", two medical teams and other humanitarian help. The frigate left port on 27 April and arrived off the coast of Libya on 2 May. It patrolled for one month before returning to Bulgaria, with a supply stop at the Greek port of Souda.
DEN: The Royal Danish Air Force participated with six F-16AM fighters, one C-130J-30 Super Hercules military transport plane and the corresponding ground crews. Only four F-16s were used for offensive operations, while the remaining two acted as reserves. The first airstrikes from Danish aircraft were carried out on 23 March, with four aircraft making twelve sorties as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Danish F-16s flew a total of 43 missions dropping 107 precision bombs during Odyssey Dawn before switching to NATO command under Unified Protector  Danish flights bombed approximately 17 percent of all targets in Libya and together with Norwegian flights have been the most efficient in proportion to the number of flights involved. Danish F-16s flew the last fast-jet mission of Operation Unified Protector on 31 October 2011 finishing with a total of 599 missions flown and 923 precision bombs dropped during the entire Libya intervention.
ITA: At the beginning of the operation, as a contribution to enforce the no-fly zone, the Italian government committed four Tornado ECRs of the Italian Air Force in SEAD operations, supported by two Tornado IDS variants in an air-to-air refueling role and four F-16 ADF fighters as escort. After the transfer of authority to NATO and the decision to participate in strike air-ground operations, the Italian government increased the Italian contribution by adding four Italian Navy AV-8B plus (from Giuseppe Garibaldi), four Italian Air Force Eurofighters, four Tornado IDSs under NATO command. Other assets under national command participated in air patrolling and air refueling missions. As of 24 March, the Italian Navy was engaged in Operation Unified Protector with the light aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Maestrale-class frigate Libeccio and the auxiliary ship Etna. Additionally, the Orizzonte-class Destroyer Andrea Doria and Maestrale-class frigate Euro were patrolling off the Sicilian coast in an air-defence role. At a later stage, Italy increased its contribution to the NATO led mission by doubling the number of AV-8B Harriers and deploying an undisclosed number of AMX fighter-bombers and KC-130J and KC-767A tanker planes. The Italian Air Force also deployed its MQ-9A Reaper UAVs for real time video reconnaissance.
JOR: Six Royal Jordanian Air Force fighter jets landed at a coalition airbase in Europe on 4 April to provide "logistical support" and act as an escort for Jordanian transport aircraft using the humanitarian corridor to deliver aid and supplies to opposition-held Cyrenaica, according to Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. He did not specify the type of aircraft or what specific roles they may be called upon to perform, though he said they were not intended for combat.
NATO: E-3 airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft operated by NATO and crewed by member states help monitor airspace over the Mediterranean and in Libya.
NOR: The Royal Norwegian Air Force deployed six F-16AM fighters to Souda Bay Air Base with corresponding ground crews. On 24 March, the Norwegian F-16s were assigned to the US North African command and Operation Odyssey Dawn. It was also reported that Norwegian fighters along with Danish fighters had bombed the most targets in Libya in proportion to the number of planes involved. On 24 June, the number of fighters deployed was reduced from six to four. The Norwegian participation in the military efforts against the Libyan government came to an end in late July 2011, by which time Norwegian aircraft had dropped 588 bombs and carried out 615 of the 6493 NATO missions between 31 March and 1 August (not including 19 bombs dropped and 32 missions carried out under operation Odyssey Dawn). 75% of the missions performed by the Royal Norwegian Air Force was so called SCAR ( Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance ) missions. US military sources has confirmed that on the night of 25 April, it was 2 F-16 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force who bombed the residence of Gaddafi inside Tripoli.
QAT: The Qatar Armed Forces contributed with six Mirage 2000-5EDA fighter jets and two C-17 strategic transport aircraft to coalition no-fly zone enforcement efforts. The Qatari aircraft were stationed in Crete. At later stages in the Operation, Qatari Special Forces had been assisting in operations, including the training of the Tripoli Brigade.
TUR: The Turkish Navy participated with five ships and one submarine in the NATO-led naval blockade to enforce the arms embargo. It also provided six F-16 Fighting Falcon jets for aerial operations. On 24 March, Turkey's parliament approved Turkish participation in military operations in Libya, including enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya.
Albania: Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that Albania is ready to help. Prime Minister Berisha supported the decision of the coalition to protect civilians from the Libyan regime of Gaddafi. Berisha also offered assistance to facilitate the international coalition actions. In a press release of the Prime Ministry, these operations are considered entirely legitimate, having as main objective the protection of freedoms and universal rights that Libyans deserve. On 29 March, Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto said Albania would open its airspace and territorial waters to coalition forces and said its seaports and airports were at the coalition's disposal upon request. Haxhinasto also suggested that Albania could make a "humanitarian" contribution to international efforts. In mid-April, the International Business Times listed Albania alongside several other NATO member states, including Romania and Turkey, that have made "modest" contributions to the military effort, although it did not go into detail.
Australia: Prime Minister Julia Gillard and others in her Labor government have said Australia will not contribute militarily to enforcement of the UN mandate despite registering strong support for its implementation, but the opposition Liberal Party's defence spokesman has called upon the government to consider dispatching Australian military assets if requested by NATO. Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the government would be willing to send C-17 Globemaster heavy transport planes for use in international operations "as part of a humanitarian contribution", if needed. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd described Australia as the "third largest [humanitarian contributor to Libya] globally after the United States and the European Union" on 27 April, after a humanitarian aid ship funded by the Australian government docked in Misurata.
Croatia: President Ivo Josipović said that if it becomes necessary Croatia will honour its NATO membership and participate in the actions in Libya. He also stressed that while Croatia is ready for military participation according to its capabilities, it will mostly endeavor to help on the humanitarian side. On 29 April, the government announced it planned to send two Croatian Army officers to assist with Operation Unified Protector pending formal presidential and parliamentary approval.
Cyprus: After the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, President Demetris Christofias asked the British government not to use its military base at Akrotiri, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom on the island of Cyprus, in support of the intervention, though this request had no legal weight as Nicosia cannot legally bar the United Kingdom from using the base. The Cypriot government reluctantly allowed Qatar Emiri Air Force fighter jets and a transport plane to refuel at Larnaca International Airport on 22 March after their pilots declared a fuel emergency while in transit to Crete for participation in international military operations.
Estonia: Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said on 18 March that his country has no current plans to join in military operations in Libya, but it would be willing to participate if called upon to do so by NATO or the European Union. The Estonian Air Force does not presently operate any fighter aircraft, though it does operate a few helicopters and transport planes.
European Union: Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb announced that the proposed EUFOR Libya operation is being prepared, waiting for a request from the UN.
Germany: Germany has withdrawn all forces from NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea as its government decided not to take part in any military operations against Libya. However it is increasing the number of AWACS personnel in Afghanistan by up to 300 to free forces of other states. Germany allows the usage of military installations on its territory for the intervention in Libya. On 8 April, German officials suggested that Germany could potentially contribute troops to "[ensure] with military means that humanitarian aid gets to those who need it". As of early June, the German government is reportedly considering opening a center for training police in Benghazi. On 24 July, Germany lent €100 million Euros ($144 million US$) to the rebels for "civilian and humanitarian purposes".
Indonesia: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for a ceasefire by all sides, but said that if a UN peacekeeping force was established to monitor a potential truce, "Indonesia is more than willing to take part."
Kuwait: The Arab state will make a "logistic contribution", according to the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Malta: Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said no coalition forces would be allowed to stage from military bases in Malta, but Maltese airspace would be open to international forces involved in the intervention. On 20 April, two French Mirages were reportedly allowed to make emergency landings in Malta after running low on fuel.
Poland: US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, UK Secretary of Defense Liam Fox, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have urged the Polish government to contribute to military operations. As of June 2011, Warsaw has not committed to participation.
Sudan: The government has "quietly granted permission" for coalition states to traverse its airspace for operations in the Libyan theater if necessary, Reuters reported in late March.
14 May: NATO air strike hit a large number of people gathered for Friday prayers in the eastern city of Brega leaving 11 religious leaders dead and 50 others wounded.
24 May: NATO air strikes in Tripoli kill 19 civilians and wound 150, according to Libyan state television.
31 May: Libya claims that NATO strikes have left up to 718 civilians dead.
19 June: NATO air strikes hit a residential house in Tripoli, killing seven civilians, according to Libyan state television.
20 June: A NATO airstrike in Sorman, near Tripoli, killed fifteen civilians, according to government officials. Eight rockets apparently hit the compound of a senior government official, in an area where NATO confirmed operations had taken place.
25 June: NATO strikes on Brega hit a bakery and a restaurant, killing 15 civilians and wounding 20 more, Libyan state television claimed. The report further accused the coalition of "crimes against humanity". The claims were denied by NATO.
28 June: NATO airstrike on the town of Tawergha, 300 km east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli kills eight civilians.
25 July: NATO airstrike on a medical clinic in Zliten kills 11 civilians, though the claim was denied by NATO, who said they hit a vehicle depot and communications center.
20 July: NATO attacks Libyan state TV, Al-Jamahiriya. Three journalists killed.
9 August: Libyan government claims 85 civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in Majer, a village near Zliten. A spokesman confirms that NATO bombed Zliten at 2:34 a.m. on 9 August, but says he was unable to confirm the casualties. Commander of the NATO military mission, Lieutenant GeneralCharles Bouchard says "I cannot believe that 85 civilians were present when we struck in the wee hours of the morning, and given our intelligence. But I cannot assure you that there were none at all".
15 September: Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim declares that NATO air strikes killed 354 civilians and wounded 700 others, while 89 other civilians are supposedly missing. He also claims that over 2,000 civilians have been killed by NATO air strikes since 1 September. NATO denied the claims, saying they were unfounded.
2 March 2012: United Nations Human Rights Council release their report about the aftermath of the Libyan civil war, concluding that in total 60 civilians were killed and 55 wounded by the NATO air campaign.
21 June: An unmanned MQ-8 Fire Scout went down over Libya, possibly due to enemy fire. NATO confirmed that they lost radar contact with the unmanned helicopter as it was performing an intelligence and reconnaissance mission near Zliten. NATO began investigating the crash shortly after it occurred. On 5 August, it was announced that the investigation had concluded that the cause of the crash was probably enemy fire; with operator or mechanical failure ruled out and the inability of investigators to access the crash site the "logical conclusion" was that the aircraft had been shot down.
20 July: A British airman was killed in a traffic accident in Italy while part of a logistical convoy transferring supplies from the UK to NATO bases in the south of Italy from which air strikes were being conducted against Libya.
Since the start of the campaign, there have been allegations of violating the limits imposed upon the intervention by Resolution 1973 and by US law. At the end of May 2011, Western troops were captured on film in Libya, despite Resolution 1973 specifically forbidding "a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory". In the article however, it reports that armed Westerners but not Western troops were on the ground.
On 10 June, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates criticized some of the NATO member nations for their efforts, or lack thereof, to participate in the intervention in Libya. Gates singled out Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands for criticism. He praised Canada, Norway and Denmark, saying that although those three countries had only provided twelve percent of the aircraft to the operation, their aircraft had conducted one-third of the strikes.
On 9 August, the head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova deplored a NATO strike on Libyan State TV, Al-Jamahiriya, that killed 3 journalists and wounded others. Bokova declared that media outlets should not be the target of military activities. On 11 August, after the 9 August NATO airstrike on Majer that allegedly killed 85 civilians, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to do as much as possible to avoid killing innocent people.
The military intervention in Libya has been cited by the Council on Foreign Relations as an example of the responsibility to protect policy adopted by the UN at the 2005 World Summit. According to Gareth Evans, "[t]he international military intervention (SMH) in Libya is not about bombing for democracy or Muammar Gaddafi's head. Legally, morally, politically, and militarily it has only one justification: protecting the country's people." However, the Council also noted that the policy had been used only in Libya, and not in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, undergoing a political crisis at the time, or in response to protests in Yemen. A CFR expert, Stewert Patrick, said that "There is bound to be selectivity and inconsistency in the application of the responsibility to protect norm given the complexity of national interests at stake in...the calculations of other major powers involved in these situations." In January 2012, independent human rights groups published a report describing alleged human rights violations and accusing NATO of war crimes.
Accusations of imperialism on the part of NATO and the West were voiced by many leaders of states that had traditionally aligned themselves with the Communist bloc and subsequently Russia, including: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (who said he supported the rebels but not Western intervention), Venezuelan PresidentHugo Chávez (who referred to Gaddafi as a "martyr"), and President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (who referred to the Western nations as "vampires"), as well as the governments of Raúl Castro in Cuba,Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua,Kim Jong-il in North Korea,Hifikepunye Pohamba in Namibia, and others. Gaddafi himself referred to the intervention as a "colonial crusade ... capable of unleashing a full scale war", a sentiment that was echoed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: "[UNSC Resolution 1973] is defective and flawed...It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades." President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China said, "Dialogue and other peaceful means are the ultimate solutions to problems," and added, "If military action brings disaster to civilians and causes a humanitarian crisis, then it runs counter to the purpose of the UN resolution." Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was critical of the intervention as well, rebuking the coalition in a speech at the UN in September 2011. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, despite the substantial role his country played in the NATO mission, also spoke out against getting involved: "I had my hands tied by the vote of the parliament of my country. But I was against and I am against this intervention which will end in a way that no-one knows" and added "This wasn't a popular uprising because Gaddafi was loved by his people, as I was able to see when I went to Libya."
Russia's foreign broadcasting service, RT, has postulated that NATO intervention may have been motivated by Gaddafi's attempts to establish a unified federation of African states that would use the gold dinar as its currency and demand that foreign importers of African oil pay in gold. Despite its stated opposition to NATO intervention, Russia abstained from voting on Resolution 1973 instead of exercising its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council; four other powerful nations also abstained from the vote—India, China, Germany, and Brazil—but of that group only China has the same veto power.
Moreover, criticisms have been made on the way the operation was led. According to Michael Kometer and Stephen Wright, the outcome of the Libyan intervention was reached by default rather than by design. It appears that there was an important lack of consistent political guidance caused particularly by the vagueness of the UN mandate and the ambiguous consensus among the NATO-led coalition. This lack of clear political guidance was translated into an incoherent military planning on the operational level. Such a gap may impact the future NATO’s operations that will probably face trust issues.
On 22 March 2011, BBC News presented a breakdown of the likely costs to the UK of the mission. Journalist Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, estimated that flying a Tornado GR4 would cost about £35,000 an hour, so the cost of patrolling one sector of Libyan airspace would be £2M –£3M per day. Conventional airborne missiles would cost £800,000 each and Tomahawk cruise missiles £750,000 each. Professor Malcolm Charmers of the Royal United Services Institute similarly suggested that a single cruise missile would cost about £500,000, while a single Tornado sortie would cost about £30,000 in fuel alone. If a Tornado was downed the replacement cost would be upwards of £50m. By 22 March the US and UK had already fired more than 110 cruise missiles. George Osborne had said that the MoD estimate of the operation cost was "tens rather than hundreds of millions". On 4 April Air Chief MarshalSir Stephen Dalton said that the RAF was planning to continue operations over Libya for at least six months.