The first large scale air attack against Libyan targets was launched by the quickly assembled Allied forces under the full moon of March 20,2011. As defined by UN resolution 1973 the attacks were supposed to be only to establish a no-fly zone and to protect Libyan civilian life.
A seemingly reluctant President Obama committed US forces to the anti-Qaddafi coalition only after United Nations resolution 1973 was passed as well as the approval by the Arab League for establishing a no-fly zone. From the beginning, Obama made it clear that it would be his intent for the United States to quickly move into a supporting role for the Libyan campaign. This week NATO assumed responsibility for carrying out the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya.
Allied Air Attacks Have Provided Close Air Support to the Libyan Rebals
Allied air attacks seemed to be quite aggressive from the very first missions. Libyan airfields, air defense systems, and fighter jets were quickly attacked by Tomahawk missiles and Allied aircraft. Then the Allies immediately provided close ground support to the Libyan rebel forces by striking at tanks, military vehicles, and Qaddafi troops who were closing in on Benghazi,the center of the resistance movement.
Over the next few days it became apparent that the Allies were not only establishing a no-fly zone but also providing close air support to rebel forces. These actions seemed to exceed the limitations of only establishing a no-fly zone as stated in UN resolution 1973.
Arab League Expresses Concern at Severity of Coalition’s Air Attacks
The Arab League wasted no time in expressing concern over the severity of the coalition’s air attacks on Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. They claim that they had endorsed only highly targeted strikes on government airfields, fighter jets, and air defense systems as a means to guarantee a no-fly zone, which would protect Libyan rebel forces and civilians. Providing close air support to the rebels clearly exceeded their expectations.
“The cruder actions the coalition takes and the longer it fights, the more it will lose the backing of the Arab public, including those who initially supported the operation. This will certainly happen if the coalition introduces ground forces”, said Egyptian political analyst Mazen Abbas.
Secretary General of the Arab League,Amr Moussa, also expressed alarm at the close air support missions. “What is happening in differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” he said on last Sunday.
The widely read Arab-language newspaper Al Hayat wrote: “The joy over the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime could quickly change to tears.”
Political analyst Hassan Shami expresses the fear of many Arabs and says: “Arabs don’t want this kind of democracy. They don’t want a foreign invasion. They don’t want foreigners grabbing their oil.” Shami cautions Arabs to “get out handkerchiefs, as bad news is bound to follow soon.”
Col. Qaddafi Hangs Tough – His Forces Advance Even With Coalition Air Strikes
This week, even with aggressive coalition airstrikes, Col. Qaddafi’s forces once again gained ground against the rebels and made it clear that they are still an effective fighting force, at least against the largely untrained and undisciplined rebels. Qaddafi is proving once again that he is a tenacious, tough, and completely ruthless leader who is not going to cave in against even vastly superior international forces. It is unlikely that air power alone will be enough to remove Qaddafi from power.
This presents the United States and the Allied coalition with a tremendous problem. President Obama has publicly stated on a number of occasions that America combat forces will not engage in ground action in Libya. Ground action presents a real challenge to the US,France, Britain, and other coalition forces, including NATO, as after Iraq and Afghanistan no one has any appetite to put boots on the ground in yet another Arab nation.
With the Arab League already complaining about what they consider to be overly aggressive air action against Libya placing coalition combat troops on the ground in Libya would lead to vigorous opposition by the Arab League. One should remember that after the fall of Iraq it took 160,000 American troops eight long months to locate and capture Saddam Hussein. A great many disastrous events could occur in Libya over eight months, especially with the Arab League turning into a hostile organization.
The Allied force’s actions in Libya are likely going to be far more complicated and more messy than originally contemplated. Unless he is somehow taken out by a lucky airstrike or a highly skilled and evasive sniper Col. Qaddafi is likely to remain in power for longer than coalition forces will remain united.
Pakinstan Defence:”Libya: What Is The Endgame?”by Osama Al Sharif,03-23-2011,04:11 PM