Source Link: Stratfor
Attacks against government military assets in Libya by coalition forces continued through the fifth night over Libya from March 23-24. Coalition aircraft struck government forces in Tripoli, Misurata, Tajoura, Ajdabiya, Jafar, and Benghazi, while British forces fired an undisclosed number of Tomahawk cruise missiles from submarines in the Mediterranean at unknown locations.
Libyan state television showed footage of 18 charred bodies, claiming they were civilians killed in the overnight airstrikes in Tajoura, which the coalition denied. However, the perception of civilian casualties — particularly on the Arab street — will ultimately matter more than facts for the staying power of the coalition. Libyan government forces, however, continued attacks against the opposition in Misurata, Adjabiya and Zentan, with government tanks, under the cover of darkness, re-entering Misurata and attacking rebels until they were struck by coalition aircraft. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said France had destroyed about 10 government armored vehicles over three days (though claims of tanks destroyed during the 1999 air campaign over Kosovo ultimately proved vastly overstated, so these statements must be viewed with skepticism). Also, allied forces are reported to have flown 175 sorties in 24 hours, with the United States flying 113 of those missions.
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There continues to be profound disagreement amongst NATO allies — and even within the smaller group of aircraft-contributing countries — about what the mission and military objectives of the air campaign should be, and whether attacks against ground forces should continue. In one sense, this disagreement does create an incentive for the more hard-line contributors like France and the United Kingdom to attempt to take out as many targets as possible as quickly as possible before a political compromise is reached. But the underlying issue remains that air power alone is an increasingly inappropriate tool for the targets that remain in Libya and continue to threaten civilian lives.