News roundup — April 20

Libyan city of Misurata pleads for NATO ground forces

Misurata, the only rebel-held city in western Libya, has asked that NATO troops be sent to fight alongside the rebels holding off Libyan forces, a local government representative said Tuesday.

“If they don’t come, we will die,” Nouri Abdul Ati, a member of the 17-member ruling body in Misurata, told reporters as heavy machine gun fire, rockets and mortar rounds exploded in the near distance. “Grad rockets don’t leave anybody alive,” he said, referring to the truck-mounted rockets used by the Libyan military.

The local council in this besieged city sent its plea via letter a week ago to the Transitional National Council, the national opposition government in Benghazi in eastern Libya. The letter urged that NATO or United Nations troops be asked to defend Misurata against Moammar Kadafi’s forces, Ati said. The national council has yet to reply.

“We need a force from NATO or the U.N. on the ground now,” Ati said at a house set amid date palms, as the night’s regular roar of heavy shelling commenced. “We did not accept any foreign soldiers on our land, but that was before we faced the crimes of Kadafi.” (Los Angeles Times)

As British help Libyan rebels, aid goes to a divided force

As NATO struggles to break a deepening stalemate in Libya, the British announced on Tuesday that they were sending military advisers to help build up a rebel army that has stumbled against the superior forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The first question the British will face is “Whose army?”

For they will find themselves advising a ragtag rebel force that cannot even agree on who its top officer is, amid squabbling between two generals who both come with unsavory baggage.

The dysfunction was on full display here this week. “I control everybody, the rebels and the regular army forces,” one of the two, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, said in an interview on Monday. “I am the field commander, and Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes is chief of staff. His job is to support us in the field, and my job is to lead the fighting.”

The rebels’ civilian leadership, the Transitional National Council, has insisted, however, that General Younes remains in charge of the military. “This is not true,” an official close to the council said Tuesday when told of General Hifter’s claims. “General Younes is over him, this is for sure, and General Hifter is under him.”

General Hifter made it clear that he viewed General Younes as an officer who was serving in a support or logistical role, and he explicitly blamed him for a string of humiliating retreats by rebels along the seesawing front line between Brega and Ajdabiya, most recently on Sunday, when seven rebels were killed during a counterattack by government forces that turned into a near rout.

“All of what happened there resulted from the command of Abdul Fattah Younes,” he said. “That’s why I came back to take charge, and in the next couple days I will take charge of every unit, not one unit. I am getting ready to lead the forces from now on.”

From the beginning, the NATO military effort has been hampered by the rebels’ disorganization and lack of training, equipment and experience, which have left them unable to capitalize on the damage NATO airstrikes inflicted on Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. The British mission is aimed at addressing those shortcomings, improving the rebels’ organization, communications and logistics. (New York Times)

War in Libya could drag on, military analysts say

New tactics used by the Qaddafi forces — mixing with civilian populations, camouflaging weapons and driving pickup trucks instead of military vehicles — have made it hard for NATO pilots to find targets. At the same time, loyalist artillery and tanks have hammered the rebel-held city of Misurata, reportedly with cluster bombs, which have been banned by much of the world, making a mockery of NATO’s central mission of protecting civilians.

But as much as the new Qaddafi tactics, divisions within NATO seem to be harming the strategy, said Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. Only six of the 28 member countries are participating in the airstrikes, and France and Britain are doing half of them while Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Canada are doing the rest.

Prominent nations like Italy and Spain are hanging back, and others have sent planes only to support the no-fly zone, or are helping to enforce the arms embargo. The Obama administration, which has ruled out deploying American troops in Libya, announced Wednesday that it would authorize as much as $25 million in military surplus supplies, though not weapons, to the Libyan opposition forces.

“You want to send Qaddafi a message of collective will, that there’s no way out, that he’s facing a determined and unified opposition,” Mr. Niblett said. “And he’s seeing a European-led NATO that is not sufficiently cohesive.”

“If I were him, I would look at European disagreements and take heart from them, especially when the opposition appears so weak,” Mr. Niblett said.

Colonel Qaddafi “senses there is a gap between means and ends,” he added. “He can look at divisions among members of NATO and feel he can be part of a political solution, because in the end he may feel there is not sufficient cohesion to follow the strategy through to its end,” which is his ouster. (New York Times)

France and Italy will also send advisers to Libya rebels

The French and Italian governments said Wednesday that they would join Britain in sending a small number of military liaison officers to support the ragtag rebel army in Libya, offering a diplomatic boost for the insurgent leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, as he met with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

After the meeting, The Associated Press reported, Mr. Sarkozy pledged to intensify French airstrikes that started in March.

The announcements came as the international community searched for a means to break a bloody battlefield deadlock that has killed hundreds in the contested cities of Misurata and Ajdabiya and left the rebels in tenuous control of a few major coastal cities in their campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

They also coincided with word out of Qatar that Moussa Koussa, the former Libyan foreign minister who defected to Britain last month, was seeking asylum in that Arab emirate. In an interview with Al Arabiya, another Qaddafi minister, Abdulrahman Shalgam, said that Mr. Koussa — who has been freed of the financial sanctions slapped on all Libyan officials but who faces possible prosecution over the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in Scotland — is most likely to remain in Qatar, where he went for a conference last week.

The decision to send military advisers seemed to push the three countries closer toward the limits of the United Nations Security Council resolution in mid-March authorizing NATO airstrikes but specifically “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” But the promised deployments also seemed a tacit admission that almost five weeks of airstrikes have not been enough to disable Colonel Qaddafi’s troops and prevent his loyalists from threatening rebel forces and civilians.

The French government spokesman, François Baroin, told reporters on Wednesday that the number of military liaison officers would be in single digits and that their mission would be to help “organize the protection of the civilian population.” The British deployment could involve up to 20 advisers. (New York Times)

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7 thoughts on “News roundup — April 20

  1. BARB

    What about showing the video of the interview w/Phylis Bennis which occurred on the same program?

  2. Diana Mariam Gariany

    I heard the first video and I am surprised at yr reporters that they did not check the cluster bombs that they are of Spanish origin which Qaddafi does not own! Please check the serial numbers & u will see that the ones that Qaddafi has are not from Spain. Plus he is not (Qaddafi) that stupid to use them when the whole world is watching.. so this is a West Rebel tactic to get troops down to the ground!
    Now we are talking about a handful rebels that the UN International Community NATO & US has decided to protect? Now that funny because the West is getting to bed with Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood of Islam which U the West call Terrorists! So please explain to me who are U protecting again??
    If you go to the link of Spiegel Live there is a footage of a reporter saying about the Libyan gov. snipers which undoubtedly exist but they are interviewing a Rebel snipper!! so who tells me that the Rebel snippers do not shoot on innocent civilians and blaming it to the government???
    U can see that the Ambassador is lying through his teeth! it does not take a genius to see that.. also his body language say’s that.. Unfortunately he defected very quickly and now he has regretted it.. It has been proven that this plot has started a few years ago as for the so called massacre that was supposed to happen in Benghazi never happened. In Libya over a year and a half the you-tube was banned from the Libyan Internet.. u can check it. So all these videos that where popping up where fake as the twitter never existed in Libya!
    I am amazed as soon as I wrote the letter to the Business Insider with the You-tube videos on what the Rebels do most of them where brought down.. is this for the West not to see the truth????
    To my last Question to u is where do u stop this propaganda?? Have u ever interviewed a Libyan who is not a rebel? Have u come to contact with any of us?? No! why? Because we will say things U do not want to hear??? And when will u stop interfering in other countries We Libyans were never a threat to the American English security and U know it! Have u declared war to us? Who are u to Order us to oust Qaddafi??? Its our choice to decide is that not Democracy? or are U the DICTATORS? so please read the link that I have put here below and if u want to contact me u have my email.

    Thanking u in advance

    Diana Maria Gariany

  3. Diana Mariam Gariany

    For me all these tactics give me the impression of U meaning America & Nato want a way to put troops on the ground! And make my country another Iraq or Afghanistan.. to steal our oil energy and water that’s one scenario another is U want to block Russia India & China which wanted to have contracts with Qaddafi and that would not be to the Likings of America foreign policy… and one more is while Qaddafi did not comply with the American orders for African League you decided to oust him out not considering that the Majority of the population is with Qaddafi..
    To me you entered in pretense of humanitarian issue’s without considering your next step! and you are in a mess!! The American Nation has already problems as they are already bankrupt so the only solution is to have a war the same goes for England and France…

  4. Paul Woodward

    Barb — I pick and choose the things I want to draw attention to. It’s called editing — or a conspiracy to conceal the truth — whichever you prefer.

  5. Norman

    I watched both segments, I agree with what Paul says, at least as far as he being the moderator of his blog. I also think that the tone of the post is such, that giving Ms Bennis views would not add continuity. It should be noted too, that this is starting to get out of control, as is usually the case with other countries sticking their collective two cents worth in domestic problems. None of this seems to have been well thought out by the West, aside from a military game played by the Pentagon/Nato, which is of course, hypothetical at best. Unless it’s “KABUKI” between the P.O.T.U.S. & the Pentagon, there doesn’t seem to be any real cut & dry out of this new quagmire.

    As far as you saying a conspiracy here Paul, I think a good case could be made that the P.O.T.U.S. has been led down the primrose path, to which there is no return.

  6. bobs

    @Diana Mariam Gariany: U convinced me of the justness of Ur cause, but then U wrote

    >> To me *you* entered in pretense

    and so now I am all confused. Because of U!

  7. Diana Mariam Gariany

    @bobs Good Morning you lost me?? <> meaning again U the Super Powers sorry if it was not that clear.. sometimes when I type fast I go back in the normal typing of 20 years ago…

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