European Nations Send Military Experts To Libya
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.
It's been a little over a month since the NATO-led coalition began bombing Libya, but Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is still firmly entrenched and the rebels are barely holding their own. For its part, the Obama administration is stepping up its commitment to the Libyan opposition. And we'll hear more about that in a moment.
But first, France, Britain and Italy have all said they will send small teams of military advisers to help the rebels organize. These developments point to the growing concern that the air campaign over Libya is not producing the expected results.
From Paris, Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited the political head of Libya's rebel opposition to the Elysee Palace Wednesday.
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LOUISE KELLY: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Television news broadcasts showed Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Libyan National Transition Council, shaking hands with the French president. Analysts said the tete-a-tete was meant to raise the profile of the rebel opposition and put a political face on the Libyan insurgency. Though Sarkozy promised Jalil that the airstrikes would intensify, European officials now seem aware that the air campaign alone will provide no quick solution. And that is why they are exploring parallel political efforts.
Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, says sending an advisory team to the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi is a good idea.
LOUISE KELLY: To give them more of a chance to complete the mission that the world believes is the right thing to do, which is to provide an opportunity for Libya to have a government for the Libyan people.
BEARDSLEY: British Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the advisors would weigh in on things like communications and logistics, but wouldn't deal with military matters. Despite the fact that the French, British and Italians are all stressing that their small deployments do not constitute boots on the ground, many believe the involvement won't end here.
John Baron is a Conservative member of the British parliament, and against his army's new mission.
LOUISE KELLY: I think if you were being charitable, you would call it mission creep. If you were being uncharitable, this is yet another further evidence that this is all about regime change.
BEARDSLEY: Coalition leaders have made no secret about wanting to get rid of Gadhafi, but there seems to be a realization that more economic and political pressure will also be needed alongside the military pressure, if Gadhafi is ever to buckle.
The Obama administration disclosed that it plans to give the Libyan opposition $25 million in non-lethal assistance, the first direct U.S. aid to the rebels.
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BEARDSLEY: A few transition council members met the press in Paris Wednesday. Though they didn't seem to know what the military advisors being sent would do, they said they were grateful to have them. They appreciated all the help they could get, they said, and were open to every option. Only one thing was not negotiable, said transition council spokesman Ali al-Issawi.
BEARDSLEY: The main thing in any political solutions which might be acceptable by Libyans, should include departure of Gadhafi. Any proposal to impose the ruling of Gadhafi on Libyans will not be acceptable.
BEARDSLEY: Etienne De Durand is head of Security Studies at the French Institute for International Relations. With the city of Misrata under siege from Gadhafi's forces and the rebels in disarray, De Durand doesn't believe a few military advisors can do much. What the rebels desperately need, he says, is military training and organization. Otherwise, the air strikes won't accomplish much.
LOUISE KELLY: They would be much more effective if they were coordinated with forces on the ground. I mean, obviously, if you maneuver on the ground, you force your enemy to expose himself and therefore he becomes vulnerable to strikes.
As long as Gadhafi forces can hide in cities, urban areas, et cetera, then, of course, airpower cannot really be of help.
BEARDSLEY: French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy is said to be the single person who convinced Sarkozy to take up the cause of the Libyan Revolution. Levy is deeply committed to the cause of the Libyan rebels. It was he who first introduced opposition members to Sarkozy and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Levy believes the situation is straightforward.
LOUISE KELLY: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: If you exclude putting foreign troops on the ground and the pressure of the military strikes doesn't have the desired effect, he says, then there's only one solution left. You have to arm the rebels, says Levy. It's as simple as that.
For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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