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Classified Report On Libya War Says NATO Dependent On US

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A classified NATO report on the bombing campaign in Libya shows the alliance is dependent on the US to wage its wars. But, even with Washington’s help, the much-praised Operation Unified Protector had military shortcomings.

­NATO’s air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were carried out mostly by Canadian and European air forces. But American troops provided crucial parts of the operation, including collecting intelligence, reconnaissance, planning sorties and refueling aircraft. The problem encompasses both a lack of technical capability and trained personnel for such tasks, says The New York Times, after studying the report. NATO’s reliance on the US during the operation is labeled “disproportionate”.

One particular area, in which the alliance is dependent on the US, is the supply of precision munitions. Virtually all the 7,700 bombs and missiles dropped or fired on Libya were American. This is nothing new – this trend has been evident as early as during the Balkan wars two decades ago.

Even with the American help, the alliance had only about 40% of the aircraft needed to intercept electronic communications. That drawback hindered the campaign’s effectiveness. Participating members also had difficulties sharing information about Libyan targets due to “classification or procedural reasons,” the report said.

“Nations did not effectively and efficiently share national intelligence and targeting information among allies and with partners,” the document said. “The inability to share information presented a major hindrance to nations deciding if a target could be engaged” based on information from another country.

The report, completed in late February by NATO’s Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Center, stays silent on the controversies of the bombing campaign, including numerous civilian deaths in NATO attacks and alleged failures to assist refugee boats in distress.

Fred Abrahams, a special adviser for Human Rights Watch, said the report was consistent with the alliance’s refusal to acknowledge clear mistakes and revealed a “willful decision not to look at civilian casualties.”

The report also overlooks some tactical details. For example, it states that NATO had no “boots on the ground,” in line with the UN Security Council resolution which explicitly forbid the alliance carrying out a ground operation in Libya. But the document did not disclose who provided forward air control, helping to guide air strikes from the ground.

The Libya report casts doubt on NATO’s ability to carry out a similar operation in Syria, which some hawkish politicians like US Senator John McCain are calling for. The Syrian army is better armed and organised than Gaddafi’s, while Syria’s armed opposition is weaker than Libya’s was.

NATO is planning several measures to address the problems outlines in the report, but they will require years and massive investment to be put in place.

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One thought on “Classified Report On Libya War Says NATO Dependent On US

  • April 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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    That is right the US is the backbone of NATO, always has been bare in mind that it was a limited conflict and not all NATO members took part. You will see a much weaker NATO, due to defense cut and by the US.

    The US is underwritten global security for decades, it is the basis of all western alliances outside of NATO bilaterally.

    So what has happen is that the US is more reliant on NATO also, argument of a two war military is false as Afghanistan had NATO involvement and had to be placed in a strategic holding pattern. Because the US could not send more troops, and the NATO forces that Bush thought he had were under caveats.

    So if you look at Iraq and Afghanistan the two war scenario and the US ability. Then look at defense cuts across the border in relation to NATO remembers and the US. NATO will struggle to fight in a single AO. As the US did when it was on two fronts. A combined US/NATO force would see much different force structure than in Afghanistan where the bulk of forces are US with a quarter NATO.

    You have to remember with Libya the US knew NATO weakness so they launched the first strikes to deal what they thought would be a death blow to contain Qaddafi’s forces and allow NATO to take the lead. But the US misjudged (part of that is budgetary) and did not hit Libya hard enough and once NATO took over it drag on and the US was still required.

    If a true shock an awe doctrine was used at the onset of the conflict then NATO would have been able to take over and have quick success, if all of NATO had contributed then they would have been more capable.

    Now for a long time the French were no part of NATO, you take French involvement out of Libya and the UK with no carrier the outcome is NATO is combat ineffective (without the US to even conduct the follow up operations).

    During the Cold War the whole of Western Europe was under threat, so they were unified, now conflicts are of a different nature and member states have different interests so some may take part other may not. Different members have different relations with Russia there is a difference between the newer members and western European members. But it is interconnected both need each other, both need each others support but are not unified on threats.

    So even at it core OTAN is unified, then you have the new threats, different interests. Then you have a decline or the perception of decline of the US which OTAN is reliant on.

    The next war will decide the future of NATO, If the US is forced to go into Mexico far more people have been killed in Mexico than Afghanistan and in a shorter period of time. NATO will be forced to go if the US collapses then NATO collapses. What you can say is it like Libya will not be a combined NATO force with all members involved. So basically at the point in time OTAN will no longer exist, there will be an alliance of OTAN members with the US, but not the old relic. Countries will pull out of NATO or the US will create a new alliance.

    So you will have a NATO without the US, possibly an EU Security Force, NATO as a US alliance without those members of the EU forces and some dual members of both the US alliance and the EU Security Force.

    Whatever it is and how it is configured it will not be the same as NATO is unsustainable for the modern world.

    Libya was a key interest to certain countries the UK, France, Italy due to economics and the issue of refugees. So it was a NATO interest, not a US interest and US involvement was for that reason. Generally humanitarian matter are via the UN and UN peacekeepers which is an international force. It is how you classify the conflict so if it was humanitarian then it is UN peacekeepers and international force, if it was strategic to Europe then it was NATO. What is a US interest a core US interest, Libya was not.

    See now you have Turkey which is a NATO member being shelled by Syria now that is a NATO interest and thus it is a US interest. But the US is the alliance and if the US say they do not want to take part in a conflict in Syria NATO is useless. It is not clear cut what NATO really is in the modern world.

    In searching for relevance and trying to adapt to new conflicts such as Afghanistan and Libya it only speeds up it demise. But due to budget constraints and lack of resources they are reliant on each other. NATO strength was it never fought a war and the US could fight wars on its own or bilaterally and even then it was a limited commitment via a US ally to make it look not as a solely US war.

    What OTAN did have going for it was a combined command and control, it is an international interoperable command structure, in theory. But in Afghanistan I remember McChrystal saying what a headache command and control was for him over ISAF, US and ANA forces.

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