Libyan Airspace Under Control, But What’s Next?
The airspace over Libya is now under the control of “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” and NATO is positioned to take over full command of the operation within a few days.
NATO Poised To Take Control
That’s the latest word on Libya.
According to National Public Radio:
The no-fly zone has been in effect for nearly a week, and the U.S. has been eager to turn over command. NPR’s Tom Bowman said there are currently two missions: One is to prevent the Libyan air force from attacking civilians; the other is to protect civilians from regime ground troops and safeguard the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
NATO has taken over command of the first mission, but it’s still not clear when the alliance will take over the second mission. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said NATO is finalizing plans for that larger role, and American officials expect that to happen by the weekend.
“We are taking the next step. We have agreed along with our NATO allies to transition command and control for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO,” Clinton said. “All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission.”
How To Stop Ground Fighting?
But it’s complicated: with the operation’s promise to avoid any civilian casualties and not send in troops, Gaddafi’s forces are pressing ahead on the ground.
Officials say the airstrikes have weakened pro-Gaddafi forces considerably, but fighting has continued in Misrata in the west and Ajdabiya in the east.
From the BBC:
The Reuters news agency said a major rebel offensive on Ajdabiya had been aborted on Friday.
Rebel fighter Muammar told the agency: “We have men further up front and I am waiting for orders from them.”
The men, driving pick-up trucks armed with rocket launchers, said they had been spurred on by the bombing raids.
The AFP news agency reported that Gaddafi loyalists in armoured vehicles had repelled attacks by rebels at the gates of the town.
What Is The Endgame?
So this could be a long war, and what exactly is the endgame?
Presidents have to make a lot of decisions, and none calls for more clarity than the one to go to war. At this point, there is still a lot of confusion about what the ultimate goal in Libya is, and how it might be achieved. Getting rid of Gaddafi has been declared as not a goal, but it’s hard to imagine how the country would continue if he were still in power.
With the potential for prolonged conflict, calls are growing louder on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for a fuller explanation of precisely what the United States hopes to achieve and how it intends to achieve it.
Administration officials say they have done that — through the president’s public remarks made during his trip to Latin America, including in an interview with Univision television; in briefings by top aides with reporters; and in meetings with congressional leaders.
But part of the confusion comes from the fact that the administration has shifted over the past weeks — from resisting military action, to leading the first assault, to positioning itself to hand over control to its partners. That seems to have left almost no one satisfied.
Gaddafi Provides An Inadequate Set-Up
Here’s an interesting report from the BBC’s John Simpson, in Tripoli:
The coalition know that killing civilians would be disastrous in this war. They’re plainly making big efforts to avoid it. Libyan television often shows pictures purporting to portray civilian victims, but they’re impossible to verify.
Today international journalists in Tripoli were bussed to the suburb of Tajoura, which was genuinely targeted by the coalition last night.
Nearby we were shown a farmhouse that had supposedly been hit. But the holes in the wall that we were told were shrapnel could only have been the result of someone firing an automatic rifle at it.
And although the farmer, a strong gaddafi supporter, said his 18-year-old daughter had been injured, the gardener said it was a four-year-old boy. It all looked like a rather inadequate set-up, done for effect.
Unlike other Tunisia and Egypt, the fight for freedom in Libya promises to be a protracted one. So sad for the people of Libya.
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