Just over a week ago, President Obama gave a speech on Libya and declared: “The United States of America has done what we said we would do.”
I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
But not in Misurata. The people there must be wondering why the sense of urgency in the international effort to protect Benghazi seems to have withered during Gaddafi’s onslaught on the third largest city in Libya.
Libyans in the besieged city of Misrata are suffering a host of horrors at the hands of forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, including beatings, rapes, summary executions and worsening food and medicine shortages, a spokesman for the opposition said Tuesday.
More than 1,000 people have been killed or are presumed dead since the conflict began in early February, and another 100 are listed as missing, said the spokesman, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.
“The security situation remains grave, especially in particular areas where Gadhafi’s forces are still present — whether in the form of heavy artillery tanks on the ground or in the form of groups of snipers positioned alongside some of the areas … very close to the city or in the suburbs,” he told msnbc.com via Skype from Libya’s third largest city.
Opposition fighters managed to repel an advance by Gadhafi forces from the east on Saturday, with the help of bombardments from coalition aircraft. But part of a food supply depot at the city’s port went up in flames. Though residents are grateful for the coalition’s help, they wanted to know why it did not act sooner.
“People are starting to question how come the response of the international coalition is not being … timely enough, but also well spread enough across the city boundaries and within the city center itself … to just eliminate this kind of threat to the city and its population,” the spokesman said.
Washington’s most urgent objective seems to have been to withdraw US combat aircraft as fast as possible — and to do so irrespective of whether their were forces ready to take their place.
The Guardian reports:
Nato is running short of attack aircraft for its bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi only days after taking command of the Libyan mission from a coalition led by the US, France and Britain.
David Cameron has pledged four more British Tornado jets on top of eight already being used for the air strikes. But pressure is growing for other European countries, especially France, to offer more after the Americans withdrew their attack aircraft from the campaign on Monday.
“We will need more strike capability,” a Nato official said.
Al Jazeera reports:
Abdul Fatah Younis, the head of the Libyan opposition’s armed forces, has accused NATO of acting too “slowly”, or not acting at all, to protect civilians in their fight against Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
Younis’ comments came as the rebels were forced out of the oil town of Brega in the country’s east by a renewed offensive launched by Gaddafi’s forces. The rebels were forced to retreat to Ajdabiya, ending a stalemate over the last five days over who controlled Brega.
Speaking at a press conference in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, Younis, who was formerly the country’s interior minister, said that NATO had “disappointed” the rebels, even though it is helping them.
“Unfortunately, and I am sorry to say this, NATO has disappointed us. My staff have been in contact with NATO officials to direct them to targets that should protect civilians, but until now, NATO has not given us what we need,” he said.
In particular, Younis was scathing in his criticism of the NATO response to events in Misurata, where residents have been under siege from pro-Gaddafi forces for the last 40 days. Younis said that Gaddafi had contaminated the drinking water, and that residents of the city did not have access to basic supplies.
“Civilians are dying daily because of lack of food or milk, even children are dying. Even by bombing. If NATO waits for another week, it will be a crime that NATO will have to carry. What is NATO doing? It is shelling some defined areas only,” he said.
@ChangeInLibya (via LibyaFeb27.com) provides this translation of Younis’ press conference:
Question: Why has NATO stopped striking Gaddafi forces on the ground and what is the explanation?
AbdulFatah Younis: Sadly, NATO has let us down. Myself and my officers call the NATO officers and give them the targets that if struck will protect the civilians. But respected people, the NATO coalition has not given us what we want. If NATO wanted to destroy the siege around Misratah, then it could have done so days ago. They use “killing civilians” as an excuse, “we do not want to perform air strikes for fear of killing civilians”. The area that Gaddafi forces are stationed in does not have any civilians. Plus, civilians are dying each day. Children, women and old aged that do not have any medicine, they have no milk. Children who do not have the most basic types of medicine. Children are dying each day, and they die each day from bombardment. Men and women. If NATO will wait for another week, then Misratah will be finished. No one will be alive. Its people will die and it will be a crime on the forehead of the international community till the end of time. What is NATO doing? The UN put NATO on our head like a crown and it’s not doing much. A strike here and a strike there. Let me tell you something….translate this first…
AbdulFatah Younis: When a huge force of tanks, Grad missiles, rocket launchers and 155 (?) cannons appears and heads to Ajdabiya, Brega or Benghazi for example, we inform NATO instantly because we do not have the type of weaponry to block them. NATO’s reaction/respons is very slow. For our message to be delivered from one representative to another to another to the head of NATO to the Field Commander to the fighter jet pilot takes 8 hours. Is this Gaddafi force pushing forward going to wait for 8 hours until it is bombed from the air? Of course not! It will have entered the city and set it alight! NATO needs to either do its job properly with us, or I will ask the National Council of Libya to raise this concern to the UN Security Council. This matter is serious, people are dying each day and all that is mentioned is NATO is with us. Nato is with us, that’s it, where? Air strikes, yes, sometimes, but this slowness is allowing Gaddafi’s forces to kill people. After they enter a city, that’s it. You should strike him before he enters the city and I will give you the coordinates and the points of congregation and points to strikes. Even our planes, we have some planes, a few that we managed to fix after the pure Libyan revolution. We fixed some planes, we have one armed gunship, and some MIG 21s and MIG 23s. Even when we ask to bring out our planes they say no, don’t fly them. But these planes can come out quickly, after 3 minutes of a warning issued they can be in the air. This fixed plane can benefit me because its quick, on the spot, a hand’s reach away, available on the ground. They say to us no don’t use your planes. So you are not being merciful to us and neither are you allowing God’s mercy to come down to us. You were not merciful to us and neither did you allow us to use our planes. We find ourselves in the parting ways of comfort. I leave this message to you as journalists, upright and moral men and women so you can spread it to the world, so that NATO is not considered to be an “asset” helping us.