Libya stalemate could thicken fog of war for NATO

Battle damage near Sidra, Libya, March 10, 2011.

From Laurent Thomet, AFP:  As the prospect of a long stalemate rises in Libya, the fog of war could get thicker for NATO after two friendly fire incidents highlighted the limitations of its aerial campaign.

The alliance admitted Friday that it had no clue the rebels were using tanks when its warplanes accidentally hit them the day before, killing four people and underscoring the poor communication between the opposition and NATO. …

"If a stalemate were to take place, you would see more of these things," said Jeffrey Lightfoot, a security expert at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank. …

"Pro-Kadhafi forces are using human shields and are parking tanks next to mosques and schools, so it’s very hard to pinpoint any of this military hardware without causing civilian casualties," said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. …

"Nobody can say today how long Operation Unified Protector will last," said Francois Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

"We are seeing a de facto partition of the country between Cyrenaica in the hands of rebels in the east and Tripolitania controlled by Kadhafi in the west, with a mobile front in the Gulf of Sirte. In short, it’s a stalemate," he said.

US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign, conceded on Thursday that the conflict appeared to be turning into a stalemate and said the rebels were unlikely to fight their way to Tripoli.

"The clock is ticking for NATO and the clock is ticking for Colonel Kadhafi, and it’s not quite clear who can outlast whom," Lightfoot said.  (photo: Getty)

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