The Arab states are playing spectator.
As America’s NATO allies shoulder a greater share of the mission in Libya, the Arab countries that urged the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone are missing from the action.
Except for the small Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which is expected to start flying air patrols over Libya by this weekend, no other members of the 22-member Arab League so far have publicly committed to taking an active role. The U.S. has sold many of these countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, billions of dollars in sophisticated military gear over the past decade to help counter Iran’s power in the region.
In the latest round of attacks, the international coalition struck at leader Moammar Gadhafi’s military sites with jet bombers and more than a dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles, a U.S. defense official said Thursday. Targets late Wednesday and early Thursday included Gadhafi’s air defense missile sites in Tripoli and south of the capital as well as an ammunition bunker south of Misrata and forces south of Benghazi, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Nearly a week into the campaign to prevent Libyan leader Gadhafi’s forces from attacking civilians, the United States increased the pressure on its NATO allies to take command of the campaign, suggesting the U.S. might even step away from its leadership role in a few days, even with the conflict’s outcome in doubt.
Officials said there was no absolute deadline to hand over front-line control to other countries, or for an end to all U.S. participation. Still, with the costs of the campaign growing by the day and members of Congress raising complaints over the goals in Libya, the Obama administration wants its allies to take the lead role soon.
Our role is limited:
An American Army general now oversees the campaign from Europe, and an American Navy admiral is the day-to-day commander from a floating command post off the Libyan coast.
While the question of overall command remains unsettled, the Defense Department on Wednesday released statistics showing U.S. aircraft are flying fewer missions than at the beginning of the week.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday, there were 175 air missions — including non-combat flights — in the Libya operation, according to the department’s figures. Of that total, 65 percent were flown by U.S. planes and 35 percent were flown by allied aircraft. Three days earlier, the U.S. made 87 percent of the flights compared with 13 percent by allied aircraft.
One NATO partner has already bailed:
Deep divisions between allied forces currently bombing Libya worsened today as the German military announced it was pulling forces out of NATO over continued disagreement on who will lead the campaign.
A German military spokesman said it was recalling two frigates and AWACS surveillance plane crews from the Mediterranean, after fears they would be drawn into the conflict if NATO takes over control from the U.S.
The infighting comes as a heated meeting of NATO ambassadors yesterday failed to resolve whether the 28-nation alliance should run the operation to enforce a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, diplomats said.
Yesterday a war of words erupted between the U.S. and Britain after the U.K. government claimed Muammar Gaddafi is a legitimate target for assassination.
U.K. government officials said killing the Libyan leader would be legal if it prevented civilian deaths as laid out in a U.N. resolution.
But U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates hit back at the suggestion, saying it would be ‘unwise’ to target the Libyan leader adding cryptically that the bombing campaign should stick to the ‘U.N. mandate’.
Still no defined mission:
Questions about the mission, including its rules of engagement, objective and alliances, have steadily mounted as the sustained bombardment continues, and threatened to reach a tipping point today.
While rebels had initially been able to exploit the chaos wrought by U.S. attacks on Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces, their gains seemed to be faltering as limited supplies and a lack of discipline and unit cohesion among the rebels gave government ground troops the chance to dig in, and in some cases, retake terrain.
There is already considerable confusion over the U.S. mission there. While the U.N. mandate is to protect civilians from attacks, there have been varying definitions about what constitutes civilian status and how far U.S. forces can go in engaging the Libyan military.
Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of Operation Odyssey Dawn, deepened that confusion Wednesday when he told reporters that the job of pilots on raids in Libya was to “discern intent” of units engaged in fighting.
A rebel may be protected as a civilian if he is not too heavily armed, whereas a rebel in a commandeered tank may not merit protection as a combatant, not a civilian. A Libyan army unit on the move may be blown up if it seems to be moving against a civilian position, but not if it is moving away or hunkering down.
But with rebels unable to consolidate gains brought by the massive U.S. raids of the past three days, the obvious aim of the American forces – to push back Qaddafi’s forces and allow rebels to knock over the dictator – may demand providing what amounts to close air support to rebel forces, with which Americans are explicitly forbidden from coordinating.
Ham admitted to reporters that the rules likely sounded more feasible in a briefing room than in a cockpit, but by trying to live within the means of an international mandate and without congressional approval, the military is pretty far out on a limb.
The community organizer is engaged as usual:
……Obama, continuing a family trip through Latin America, sounded rather blithe about the whole affair when talking to reporters in Chile.
Obama discussed the need to protect glaciers and other sundries typical of official visits, and when asked about the widening war in Libya first joked with the reporter asking the question, Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press, and then discussed Kuhnhenn’s roots in Chile.
When you go half-assed into a military operation, you can expect half-assed results.
- Is the Libya War Working? (thedailybeast.com)
- Navy chief: We’re not sure what the next stage is in Libya (hotair.com)