Source Link: Stratfor
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi remains defiant Mar. 23 as the targeting of Libyan military assets by coalition aircraft continued through the night of March 22-23, with strikes concentrating on targets in Tripoli for a fourth consecutive night. But there appears to have been a noteworthy drop in targets struck and in the tempo of operations.
As STRATFOR has noted, the number of larger, more fixed air defense and command-and-control targets is quickly dwindling as the air campaign progresses; at this point, the coalition has in all likelihood been quite successful in its efforts to destroy much of the Libyan government’s command-and-control, static air defense and air field targets. (There are also reports that Husayn al-Warfalli, a senior commander loyal to Gadhafi has been killed, but this remains unverified.) This is forcing the coalition to transition to much more limited operations or move to more agile and rapid sorties at lower altitudes, where the risk to both aircraft and civilians will increase. Meanwhile, the inability of the rebels to form a coherent military force and the inability of air power to protect civilians in cities where fighters loyal Gadhafi are already in position remain the foremost tactical and operational challenges for the coalition.
Politically, the mission is also transitioning in terms of leadership, with the United States easing back its role to make way for a more robust European presence in terms of missions and leadership. On a visit to El Salvador, U.S. President Barack Obama on March 22 said there was a “significant reduction in the number of U.S. planes that are involved in operations over Libya,” and that he had “absolutely no doubt that we will be able to transfer control of this operation to an international coalition,” adding that he was in discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the matter.
With the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi in place, along with Spanish, Italian, French and British sorties being flown out of bases in France and Italy, a full complement of Europe’s air forces is in place to continue operations. In addition, more Europeans are signing on to the campaign, with Romania offering NATO 207 servicemen and a frigate to help enforce the arms embargo on Libya, and Denmark offering 200 servicemen, six F-16 fighters and a mine countermeasures ship. Norway also deployed planes to Crete on March 23.
The main question to be answered is not the precise makeup of the future leadership of the coalition military effort in Libya, be it NATO or a European country, but what the coalition does next.