NATO allies debate end to Libya air war | Pakistan Today

NATO allies debate end to Libya air war

NATO allies debated on Thursday how quickly to end the bombing campaign in Libya as they reviewed progress in their plans to withdraw combat troops from the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan. With Muammar Gaddafi diehards surrounded by the new leadership’s forces in Sirte and Bani Walid, and the fallen Libyan leader in hiding, the number of NATO air strikes has drastically declined in recent weeks.
NATO officials say the six-month-old air war will continue as long as Gaddafi loyalists pose a threat to civilians. “Sirte is extremely symbolic. But it is important that we no longer have pockets of resistance,” said French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet.
“Whether Gaddafi disappears from the scene is important, but it’s not enough,” Longuet told reporters before a second day of talks with NATO counterparts. NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US Admiral James Stavridis, recommended to the ministers late Wednesday that the mission continue until the new regime consolidates control of the entire country, diplomats said.
Once the country is deemed secure, Stavridis suggested that the no-fly zone carry on for two weeks until NATO is “sure that fighting has ended,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. Gaddafi loyalists have made it tricky for NATO warplanes to bomb them by hiding in built-up areas, using civilians as human shields to deter air strikes, officials said.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the decision to halt the operation would hinge on the ability of NTC forces to maintain order – not on the fate of Gaddafi.
Officials said the alliance had to make a political judgment, balancing the need to prevent attacks on civilians while avoiding the impression of meddling. “It will be a political decision, which will involve the UN and the NTC and it will be a question of an international concert of opinion that the time has come,” said a senior NATO official. “The big risk is that one day we stop and the next day there is a massacre, in which case we would have failed.”

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