Impatient Rebels Critique NATO Aid

Gen. Abdelfatah Yunis, the commander of rebel military forces in Benghazi expressed dissatisfaction on Tuesday with the pace of the NATO/ UN intervention in his country. He worried that Misrata, the country’s 3rd-largest city, might fall altogether any moment. He could not understand why supplies were not delivered promptly to the harbor by NATO ships.

Yunis appears to me to underestimate how hard it is to do precision bombing of small targets from the air, while avoiding civilian casualties. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe underlined on Wednesday morning that his country wants no civilian causalities in the bombing raids.

Qaddafi’s tanks shelled downtown Misrata intensively during the first part of the day. They are said to have killed 2 and wounded 24. Misrata residents also suffer from heavy and continuous sniper fire.

AP reports that the rebel fighting force at Ajdabiya, some 1000 men, is significantly more competent at tactics and maneuvers than it was two weeks ago. With NATO air backing it appears just able to fight the Qaddafi forces to a draw.

Multi-billionaire members of the Qaddafi family and inner circle could do one thing to get US Treasury Department and UN sanctions on their finances lifted. They could break with the dictator, as Moussa Khoussa did last week.

Jordan is now delivering relief supplies to Misrata by airlift. Its jets have also been sent to a European air base in case they should be needed for self-defense. Two other members of the Arab League, Qatar and the UAE, are actively flying air sorties over Libya.

Russia Today reports on the oil politics of the fight:

9 Responses

  1. NATO is certainly not doing everything possible to fight the dug-in loyalist troops in Misrata. The U.S. could be flying small drones to precisely identify where the tanks and artillery are ensconced. Helicopters and A10′s could be brought to the fight.

    The real holdup is that NATO, and especially the U.S., are unwilling to risk a single casualty of their own to fulfill the mission of protecting civilians. That is the sad truth. Or more charitably, the political reality.

    Qadaffy has a puny military force that Belgium could probably dismantle in two weeks of dedicated warfare.

  2. I disagree, Younis is absolutely correct in his criticism of NATO. It is acting much too slowly and inconsistently. In general, it is doing less than it could do.

  3. The Zaywa report says Jordan has flown humanitarian supplies into Benghazi, it doesn’t say anything about about airlifts to Misrata.

  4. Yunis “worried that Misrata, the country‚Äôs 3rd-largest city, might fall altogether any moment.” Yunis is arguing that a massacre of civilians could occur if NATO doesn’t deliver supplies. Other commenters have argued that massacres of civilians will occur if NATO doesn’t supply air cover for rebel forces. Do you see how easy it is to use this argument once you have agreed to start bombing and shooting in order to “avoid a massacre of civilians?”

    “Yunis appears to me to underestimate how hard it is to do precision bombing of small targets from the air, while avoiding civilian casualties.” I would have to say that a lot of people, including the writer of this blog, underestimate how hard it is to avoid civilian casualties once you start bombing, precision or not.

    This NATO mission started as a campaign to enforce a “no fly zone” to protect civilians. We’ve already moved into flying support for the rebels, essentially taking sides in a civil war. Now NATO is supplying the rebels and providing training courtesy of the CIA. What was sold to the US as a limited mission has morphed into a full scale old fashioned US intervention, just as the administration had planned.

    • Since Misrata was in rebel hands on March 16, preventing Qaddafi’s tanks from shelling it intensively would fall under protection of civilians. Taking sides in a civil war would imply helping the rebels take new territory; I am not aware of anyplace this has yet occurred.

      • Come on!

        The rebel occupation of Ajdabiya some weeks ago was only possible thanks to several days of NATO bombing on defensive governement troops. After Ajdabiya fall, the rebels continued their advance toward Sirte, occupying towns loyal to Qadafi like Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, thanks to heavy NATO bombing of governement troops. Near Sirte, rebels where pushed back by army and civilians loyals to Qadaffi when the Western bombings were reduced due to bad weather. This is taking sides in a civil war.

        You support the rebels, ok, but I think you shouldn’t hide the evidence: we are taking sides in a civil war. We are bombing static troops, defensive positions, supply convoys, we are giving close air support to rebel troops, trining them, come on. We are sided with the rebels who fight under the monarchy flag and are headed by two men: former Ministry of Interior who for yeras leaded Qaddafi repressive police until he changed sides five weeks ago, and a CIA operative flown from Virginia to Benghazi.

  5. “Jordan is now delivering relief supplies to Misrata by airlift.”

    One wonders why Western countries didn’t do this several weeks ago. They’ve had total control of the skies for over two weeks.

  6. This has probably been discussed before, but why would NATO not have seriously investigated the possibility of calling on Egypt to assist the rebels with their army?

    I have read that the Egyptian army is far more powerful than the forces under Ghaddafi’s command. NATO could continue to supply air-strikes to assist the Libyan and Egyptian ground forces in this scenario. NATO could fund the whole expeditionary force if needed.

    NATO seems to have basically decided that regime change is the most probable means by which the carnage in Libya will end. Therefore a sizeable (but not overly so) force from Egypt could be deploy to assist the rebels in capturing the central cities. The rebel forces would always be the ones to stage the “liberation” of the city.

    Egyptian and/or Tunisia forces could help lift the siege of Misrata if they could intervene before it falls. In this scenario so the regime would likely be doomed then the international coalition, the rebels, and the Egyptian (and maybe Tunisian) forces could try to convince the Ghaddafi loyalist soldiers to ditch the regime. They could even offer to let them stage a liberation in the cities on behalf of the rebel leadership.

    Of course this would be clearly be regime change and intervention in a civil war (which seems to already have happened though on a much lower level of intensity and support than this would entail), but since the collapse of the Ghaddafi run state seems to be necessary for the NATO mission to be fulfilled then it would seem a potential option.

    Note: I am not advocating for or against any of these policy ideas. I am just presenting this option and trying to find out why it has not been seriously considered.

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