NATO chief acknowledges "no pure military solution" to Libyan crisis

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged on Friday that ultimately there is no "purely military solution" to the crisis in Libya.

"That is why the international community is urgently seeking a political settlement, a settlement that ensures that the people's legitimate demands for genuine transition and a brighter future do not run into the Libyan sands," he wrote in the Washington Post.

He also lamented the fact that "it is never easy to forge a broad-based agreement to take military action."

As stalemate continues on the ground in Libya where the opposition and the government forces have been engaged in a tug-of- war, divisions have emerged within the military alliance with France and Britain, which have been spearheading the airstrikes on Libya since NATO took over control of the military mission from the United States on March 31 and grown frustrated with lack of support from allies, calling for more support from other member states, the U.S. in particular.

Of NATO's 28 members, only six are conducting air bombing on ground targets of the Libyan government forces. Some are joining the noncombat mission of policing the arms embargo against Libya. The U.S. has been resisting calls for its reasserting a stronger role in airstrikes, saying instead that NATO has the capacity to fulfill the mission and is doing well.

However, NATO was criticized by Libyan opposition for acting too slowly and ineffectively.

Rasmussen argued that the international community and NATO had to act in Libya, as Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi "unleashed indiscriminate violence against his people as they sought change from his despotic regime," and the actions have been based on the support of the international community, including authorization by UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

He wrote: "In this broad international effort, NATO was asked to play a key part. NATO allies have taken on full responsibility for implementing all military aspects of this resolution: policing the arms embargo, patrolling the no-fly zone and protecting civilians from the threat of attack."

"We agreed to take on the UN mandate after intensive discussion and careful planning within NATO and on the basis of solidarity among all 28 member states," he added.

He argued that NATO "is doing its utmost to fully enforce the UN mandate around the clock," noting that "since we took over command of the mission in Libya on March 31, the operational tempo has not abated. We have flown more than 2,000 sorties, of which over 900 have been strike sorties."

"What has changed is the situation in Libya," he wrote.

He explained that in the early days of the operation, sorties focused on static targets while NATO is now conducting pinpoint strikes and degrading the ability of Gaddafi's forces to fight.

He wrote: "We are targeting air defenses, tanks, armored personnel carriers, ammunition dumps and fuel supplies. Gaddafi is hiding his tanks and heavy weapons in city centers, near schools and mosques, showing his utter disregard for the lives of civilians. In stark contrast, NATO pilots strike with care and precision to maximize the effect of our actions while minimizing the danger to civilians."

"We have the capabilities required, we are using them effectively and successfully," he wrote. "And we are committed to providing all necessary forces and maximum operational flexibility within our mandate. On Thursday, NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin made it clear that we would continue to exert this pressure on legitimate targets as long as is necessary."

He made clear NATO's three key objectives -- stopping all attacks and the threat of attacks against civilians and civilian populated areas, seeing a "credible and verifiable" withdrawal of all the government's forces back to their bases, including a withdrawal from the populated areas they have occupied, and forcing the Libyan government to allow "immediate, full, safe and unhindered" humanitarian assistance to all the people of Libya.

[Source: Xinhua, Wahington, 15Apr11]

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