NATO's operations against Moammar Gadhafi's forces began in March, with French and British airstrikes on Libyan army positions. And it was French warplanes that ultimately brought the mission to an end, bombing Gadhafi's convoy as it left his hometown of Sirte. NATO officials say they were unaware the former Libyan leader was part of the convoy.
With Gadhafi dead, NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance planned to wind down the mission by October 31.
"I am very proud of what we achieved, together with our partners, including many from the region," said Rasmussen. "Our military forces prevented a massacre and saved countless lives. We created the conditions for the people of Libya to determine their own future. Their courage and determination in the course of freedom is an inspiration to the world."
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain had led the diplomatic push for a no-fly zone over Libya enforced by NATO. Six months after the campaign began, they were the first world leaders to visit the newly liberated Tripoli.
Reacting to Gadhafi's death, Sarkozy said it was time for a new chapter in Libya. "It's a war for freedom of the Libyans, for the Libyans," said Sarkozy. "We have helped them. We will continue to help them as much as they ask us to. What is true is that the operation is coming to an end, of course. But it's really up to the Libyans to build their future."
Despite the elation expressed by many world leaders at the victory of Libya's rebel forces over Gadhafi, analysts say questions will linger over the nature of the NATO mission. What began as a U.N.-backed campaign to protect civilians ended with regime change.
The U.N. and NATO are demanding an investigation into how Gadhafi met his violent death after being captured by Libyan fighters. That will be debated in the coming days.
Ultimately, NATO commanders say they are satisfied. The overall mission has been accomplished and the alliance seems to be strengthened.