Allies may give NATO operational control, but not political control

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, January 10, 2011.

From Scott Wilson and and Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post:  The United States appeared to be closer Tuesday to turning over command of the military operation in Libya, with key NATO countries tentatively agreeing that the alliance would take the leading role.

According to U.S., French, and British officials, NATO will take over, with the command working out of different operation centers, including naval facilities in Naples, Italy, and potentially air bases in Turkey. …
A steering committee of representatives from participating countries would maintain political oversight, providing a non-NATO veneer important to Turkey, where public opinion is mixed over the Libyan mission. The model is similar to that of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where troops belonging to NATO nations participate alongside non-NATO contributors.
That structure would also allow Arab participation in the decision-making. The agreement, one U.S. official said, amounts to a compromise reached after Sarkozy, in his phone conversation with Obama, eased off his previous insistence that NATO not be in charge.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said “the leaders agreed that NATO should play a key role in the command structure going forward for the enforcement of the no-fly zone.”
“Clearly we have a coalition that is going to include nations other than NATO allies and that not every single NATO ally is going to be participating in the enforcement of the no-fly zone,” Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president. “So I think what we’re working through is how to leverage the capabilities within NATO as a part of a command structure that is internationalized when the U.S. shifts. …”
Neither coalition governments nor NATO has officially signed on to the agreement yet, and administration officials traveling with Obama in Latin America, aware of remaining sensitivities within the alliance and among its outside partners, said the issue was still under discussion.  (photo: Getty)

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