Tensions emerge in NATO’s Libya mission


From the Financial Times:  Washington’s decision to pull its fighter jets and bombers out of Libya is causing tension in Nato ranks, as concerns mount over the sustainability of the military mission without the US in the lead.

France has complained to the US about President Barack Obama’s speech last week, in which he announced that the US would shift to a supporting role – focusing on areas such as intelligence, aerial refuelling and search and rescue assistance.

“We had a concern, which the UK shared, that it wasn’t the best signal to send to [Colonel Muammer] Gaddafi and the rebels,” said a French official. “We felt it would be better for the US to keep some kind of more active role, even if it was just flying six or so planes. …”

The UK is also worried about having to shoulder extra responsibilities, should Paris devote more resources to Ivory Coast. “Should France begin to concentrate their focus elsewhere, there will be an unbearable burden on those left to manage Libya,” said one UK diplomat. …

But in a move signalling Nato’s desire to increase its firepower, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance’s secretary-general, called Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, on Thursday, to ask Rome to take a more active role, an Italian official said. So far Italy’s contribution of 12 planes have flown 108 missions, but not opened fire once.

“The allies have to fill the bombing gap left by the Americans,” said the official, adding that Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, told Mr Frattini in Washington this week she was worried the “rebels cannot hold the line”.  (photo: Reuters)

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