NATO Escalates War Against Kadafi
May 26, 2011
Libya’s Khamis Brigade, run by President Moammar Kadafi’s 27-year-old son, continues to bombard the rebel-controlled Western city of Misrata with mortars despite Libya’s promise of a new ceasefire. Since launching “Operation Odyssey Dawn” March 19, the U.S. and NATO forces have been in a Mexican standoff with Kadafi, unable to stop attacks on key rebel-held cities and advance toward Tripoli. When the U.N. voted to approve “all necessary means” to stop Kadafi’s assault on Libyan civilians, they didn’t specifically authorize toppling the regime or killing Kadafi. Without any clear end in sight, President Barack Obama and his NATO partners must go back to the drawing board and figure out a new plan. So far, Kadafi is content to hole-up in his bunker and let Tripoli get bombed into the Stone Age. Air-attacks alone have failed to get rid of the 68-year-old Libyan dictator.
Kadafi’s continued mortar attacks on rebel strongholds prove that the government still has the capability to wage war. Over two months after the war began, Kadafi’s military continues to fight back, despite officials’ calls for a ceasefire. “We fired on them and advanced. They fell back and started firing mortars,” said Libyan rebel Suleim Al-Faqih, admitting rebels fired on Kadafi’s forces for digging a trench to block a key supply line. Spain acknowledged it was contacted by Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali-Al-Mahmoudi with a ceasefire offer, despite the government’s ongoing bombing campaign. “Libya is serious about a ceasefire,” said Al-Mahmoudi but qualified that only Kadafi decides when or whether it would go into effect. “The leader Moammar Kadafi is the leader of the Libyan people; he decides what the Libyan people think . . .” said Al-Mahmoudi.
Rebel forces want a ceasefire but only after Kadafi and his regime leave Tripoli. “We welcome any initiative which starts with the departure of Kadafi, his sons and his regime from Libya,” said Libyan rebel leader Mostafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel Transitional National Council, on Al Jazeera TV. U.S. and NATO officials must accept the rebel’s requirements, go beyond the U.N. resolution and do what’s necessary to end the conflict. Promising to escalate the mission, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron promised advanced helicopter gunships, capable of destroying what’s left of Kadafi’s army. “You are wearing down a regime over time,” said a U.S. defense official. “You make the elites uncomfortable; and you get dissension in the upper ranks. It doesn’t happen quickly,” accounting to the current limitations of a protracted air campaign.
U.S. and NATO forces must recalculate the current air-war because of its deleterious effect on Libyan infrastructure. Bombing Tripoli into the Stone Age doesn’t help the next regime that will require normal infrastructure and amenities to run a new government. U.S. and NATO forces should have backed up rebel forces with ground troops to complete the mission. “What you are trying to do is get the regime to read the writing on the wall,” said the unnamed Pentagon official. Since March 19, Kadafi has dug in trying to outlast the U.S. and NATO bombardment. Deploying attack helicopters could help decimated what’s left of the Khamis Bridgade, continuing to hit Misrata with mortar attacks. “We are looking at ways to turn up the pressure [on Kadafi] including helicopters. When we are ready to make and announcement we’ll make announcements,” said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.
Kadafi’s friends in the Kremlin asked the U.N. to look into the legitimacy of NATO’s attempts to bring more military on Kadafi. “The delivery of such kinds of weapons [attack helicopters] raises the most serious fears,” said Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, quoted by the Russian press. More military pressure on Kadafi doesn’t raise fear it raises hope that the current unending military operation can finally end. Lukashevich doesn’t seem to object to U.S. or NATO ground troops only attack helicopters. “Such a scenario runs absolutely counter to the U.N. Security Council resolution No. 1973, which is increasingly being violated by the international coalition,” objecting to U.S. and NATO military escalation. Kadafi has been given plenty of chances end military operations. He wants a ceasefire only for coalition forces seeking his removal.
U.S. and NATO commanders must recalculate the mission and consider backing up rebel forces with ground troops to march on Tripoli. Decimating Libyan cities, especially the capital, with a protracted air war complicates the post-Kadafi era by destroying too much infrastructure. Kadafi is currently dug in and prepared to watch Libya destroyed before he decides to call it a day. U.S. and NATO forces must not play into his hands and finish the job expeditiously. Intensifying operations involves more than sending in attack helicopters to destroy what’s left of Kadafi’s army. Unlike former President Bill Clinton’s successful 1999 air war against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milsosevic, Kadafi doesn’t care what happens to Libya. Allied forces must assist rebels with ground troops to finally root out the Libyan strongman in his Tripoli bunker. Airpower alone can’t get it done.
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