17th Apr 2021

Nato making 'necessary plans' for Libya

Ahead of a meeting of defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday (10 March), Nato military planners are drafting a range of potential actions against the Gaddafi regime - including the enforcement of a no-fly zone, which could see strikes on Libyan air defences.

"At Nato we stand prepared for any eventuality. Nato is not looking for reasons to intervene in Libya, but as a defence and security organisation we have the necessary plans," Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a video message on Wednesday (9 March).

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  • Nato defence ministers on Thursday will look at potential actions against Libya (Photo: Nato)

Speaking to Brussels journalists that same day, US ambassador to Nato Ivo Daalder said that the military planning was looking at a "full spectrum of possibilities," ranging from maritime and air surveillance in the international waters off the Libyan coast to "several options for a no-fly zone".

Mr Daalder stressed that these plans had to be drafted so that if a "request" to intervene is formulated, the military alliance can move quickly.

Deployment of terrestrial troops is not on the table and neither is the protection of the country's oil and gas infrastructure, one senior US official said. Any move would have to have a "clean and proper legal base", preferably with a green light from the UN Security Council - which diplomats say is hard to achieve due to reluctance from China and Russia.

As for the controversial no-fly zone, defence ministers are likely to discuss having all the Libyan territory covered or just Tripoli and the adjacent areas still under Colonel Gaddafi's control and whether the flying ban would apply around the clock or only during certain hours.

US defence minister Robert Gates on Wednesday told congressmen that there was a lot of "loose talk about some of these military options."

"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences. That's the way you do a no-fly zone," he said ahead of his travel to Brussels.

The cost of such an operation would also be considerable and without a "demonstrable need for Nato to act, a clear legal basis and a firm regional support," no mission is envisaged, one senior UK official said.

Asked if the prospect of a no-fly zone was mere sabre-rattling to try and get Colonel Gaddafi to step down, the British official said: "It's certainly not a bluff, the planning is for real – how we would do it, costs, number of assets deployed."

The fact that Colonel Gaddafi has in past days reduced his reliance on air strikes against rebel outposts is "only a beneficial by-product," the official added, but that the man is "very violent and unpredictable."

The Libyan strongman on Wednesday said his countrymen would take up arms against western nations if a no-fly zone were to be imposed. In an interview on Turkey's state-run TRT television, Colonel Gaddafi said such a move would lead Libyans to see that western nations' real intention is to seize Libya's oil.

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