Analysis: NATO initiatives not seen decisive in Libya war

BRUSSELS Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:42pm EDT

A Gaddafi forces tank, destroyed by NATO air strikes, is seen on the road between Ajdabiyah and Brega near the western gate of Ajdabiyah April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A Gaddafi forces tank, destroyed by NATO air strikes, is seen on the road between Ajdabiyah and Brega near the western gate of Ajdabiyah April 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Western bombing campaign in Libya is now in its sixth week but despite a series of eye-catching NATO initiatives there is little sign of a decisive military shift that will bring a quick end to the war.

And there are few signs either of significant divisions within Muammar Gaddafi's government that would hasten a political solution to the conflict.

NATO, which took over the air campaign from a coalition led by France, Britain and the United States a month ago, can point to some successes in protecting civilian populations in eastern Libya from attack including in Benghazi and Ajdabiyah.

But the siege of Misrata continues and the commander of the NATO operation, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, conceded on Tuesday that the alliance had yet to remove the threat posed to civilians by Gaddafi's forces.

In the past week, a broadening of NATO's bombing campaign to strikes on Gaddafi's Tripoli compound, Washington's announcement that it was deploying armed drones, and the withdrawal of government forces from central Misrata, might suggest the start of a shift away from a military stalemate.

But analysts say these moves in part reflect a practical reality -- that an initial air campaign has run out of clear, purely military targets that are easy to hit without endangering civilians -- and the need for Western governments to maintain support for the effort by showing they are making a difference.

"Militarily, the fact is, the situation is not much different from what it was at the very beginning of the war," said French strategic analyst Francois Heisbourg.

"Gaddafi is essentially controlling the same territory as he was at the beginning of the war, so he is not likely to leave power readily as part of a negotiated deal. So from the standpoint of the coalition it's not a great result."

Shashank Joshi of London's Royal United Services Institute said Gaddafi had shown himself a more adaptable and flexible adversary than the Western powers would have hoped.

"His forces have adapted extremely well," Joshi said.


While there had been an escalation of the political aims of the Western mission, given the statement this month by the leaders of France, Britain and the United States pledging to continue the military campaign until Gaddafi gives up power, there was less sign of a stepping up of the military effort, Joshi said.

"People are synthesizing the bombing of Gaddafi's compound and the introduction of drones and advisers to say this is an escalation. These are all incremental and will not make a difference in themselves.

"It's actually a new way to compensate for the slowing of airstrikes," he said, referring to a decline in air activity since NATO took over the operation and the United States stepped back from an overt front-line role.

Tomas Valasek of the Center for European Reform think tank said that despite NATO denials, it did appear the key alliance powers -- France, Britain and the United States -- were seeking a way around the Gaddafi dilemma by targeting him directly.

"NATO's official mandate doesn't involve removing Gaddafi from power, so the commanders would deny it and say they are going after communications posts and such, but to me it does smell that they are going after Gaddafi personally.

"That would mean a gap between what NATO collectively says it wants to do and what the French, the British and Americans say. That's going to be a tough issue internally and it seems bound to create tensions within NATO," he said.

Nick Witney of the European Council on Foreign Relations said French, British and U.S. leaders had put pressure on themselves by declaring their mission to be regime change.

"Unfortunately that's something that cannot be achieved by bombing," he said. "There should be no particular time pressure on this, but you have to accept a war aim of disengagement, ceasefire and negotiations. It's a mistake to conflate military action and regime change."

Valasek said the fact that Britain, France and Italy were sending in military advisers showed they were aware they were unlikely to succeed quickly.

"It speaks of a long-term strategy," he said. "They have a dilemma: there's no end to the war without an end to the Gaddafi regime. And short of turning the rebels into a proper fighting force and supporting them from the air, there is no good way of forcing Gaddafi to resign."

Any progress so far had been marginal, he said.

"To use a tug-of-war analogy, you are talking about a few inches left and right," he said. "They're still a mile way from the ultimate political end goal of removing Gaddafi from power."

(Editing by Rex Merrifield)

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Comments (2)
mycodename wrote:
NATO’s attempts to turn the tide might be more effective if Israel’s CST Global corporation wasn’t supplying Gadafi with what’s been reported as 50,000 mercenaries along with support personnel to replace technicians who were killed in the attack on his air-defense installations by the U.S.

I’m starting to understand now how these things seem to have a clear, well-intended solution at the beginning and then seem to drag on indefinitely for no good reason. Given the fact that Israel has historically prioritized the goal of having substantial influence in our U.S. government, I’m wondering how the government is dealing with the fact that an Israeli corporation, reportedly charging $2,000 per African mercenary while paying the mercenary $100/day, is essentially turning what should have been a short conflict into an on-going business windfall. Likewise, I’m wondering how it’s playing in Washington D.C. when the U.S. is sending U.S. pilots into a warzone whose Israeli-backed mercenaries are shooting at them while numerous pro-Israeli lobbyists, attorneys, government aides, and other Washington, D.C. influentials continue to shape policy concerning the war. If our purported friends are going to support our enemies then we need to determine who our friends really are before engaging in wars incapable of being won or assisting Israel in protecting itself against Middle East threats to it’s freedom and sovereignty only to watch it profiteer on the slaughter of students and civilians fighting for democratic freedom being choked by the grip of a mass-murdering psychopath.

I was all for the U.S. assisting the rebels in fighting for democracy before I came to discover this unexpected obstacle. Now it appears as though this thing might very well drag out for years and years as we continue to send young, naive military personnel into a war knowing they are likely to be killed or wounded by our friends working against us. I’ve never understood our relationship with Israel to begin with though I suspect it’s largely a product of Israeli influence within our own government. If that’s the case, then we need to identify pro-Israeli individuals who, by virtue of their political leanings, have a conflict of interest if they also occupy an influential or sensitive position within our own government or it’s civilian support system.
Allowing someone to influence war decisions who is closely allied with the primary backer of our enemy is the grossest form of negligence.
When a U.S. pilot is shot down with Israeli equipment and mercenaries, there will be no excuse that could work from any part of the Administration.

If the government chooses to commit innocent military personnel to this good cause knowing that it will continue because Israel will continue support, then it is knowingly sending our young citizens into a perpetual meat grinder. You know how those work, don’t you? Take a look at Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan?, and other protracted wars that took far longer than expected to reach a failing conclusion. This is the kind of BS that the American public is wretchedly disgusted with. It is the type of behavior that makes U.S. Citizens blindly enraged about our government.

With the economy as it is, we might very well be the next country to have a revolution if our government becomes any more abusive of the poor and middle classes. What international friend would the U.S. Citizen revolutionaries call upon for help this time as the Founding Fathers did some 235 years ago by sending Benjamin Franklin to France to plead for assistance in rebelling against the British? Could the U.S. Citizen revolutionaries count on France again to provide the support that changed the outcome of the Revolutionary War in 1776 and stopped the abuses of the British government? It’s certainly possible again, I suppose. The French still love to love but they also love a good fight when it’s about right and wrong. They’re in Libya now spearheading the alliance. What about Irasel? Could the U.S. Citizen revolutionaries count on Israel to help free them from an abusive government? …… Anyone? Anyone?

Apr 26, 2011 2:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Jeanmichel wrote:
The first question one should ask is, what is NATO doing in this Libyo-Libyan war? It is clearly a civil war. Why should NATO be involved in it? Why should NATO side towards the rebels? Why does NATO want to kill Khadafi?

One thing is clear, NATO is not involved in this civil war to protect the civilians. This is an excuse for intervention but is not the true reason, otherwise NATO should be involved in the unrest of other countries including Syria.

NATO’s interest is purely economic? Has Khadafi refused to renew or extend any oil contract with Britain? This might be the case. Is Khadafi’s involvement in some African satellite communication projects affecting major communication companies in Europe? Again, this seems to be the case. So, it might be that the involvement of NATO is a chastisement operation designed to punish Khadafi for not extending an oil contract and to cut down the revenues of a European communication company. And in this chastisement operation, thousands of Libyans have been killed by NATO bombs and billions of dollars’ worth of Libyan assets have been destroyed. Has NATO the right to kill people and destroy assets that belong to Libya? Is this not a crime that should be severely punished?

Apr 26, 2011 8:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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