. Military Space News .

NATO, NTC deadlier than Kadhafi diehards: Sirte escapees
by Staff Writers
Sirte, Libya (AFP) Oct 6, 2011

Panetta to consult NATO commanders on Libya air war
Brussels (AFP) Oct 6, 2011 - With NATO's campaign in Libya nearing an end, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta will fly to the allied command in Naples on Thursday to confer with officers overseeing the air war, officials said.

Panetta called the NATO intervention a "remarkable achievement" and hailed the fall of Moamer Kadhafi's regime after talks Thursday with fellow NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

The Pentagon chief told a news conference that NATO allies were weighing when to halt the bombing campaign and that it would depend in part on the strength of local forces on the ground, who have encircled Kadhafi's loyalists.

Panetta would hold talks with Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, who is running the Libya air operation, and US Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of allied joint force command in Naples, officials said.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US Admiral James Stavridis, based in Mons, Belgium, was also scheduled to join in the discussions.

Speaking to reporters earlier on his trip, Panetta said he also wanted to express appreciation to US and allied officers at the Naples command for their role in what he called a "successful" operation.

"I want to thank the operations people that work there in Naples," Panetta said. "They did a great job."

After knocking out air defence sites in Libya at the outset of the campaign, the US military assumed a low-profile role in the NATO operation with the British and French taking the lead.

The United States, which carried out about a quarter of all sorties in the six-month campaign, provided crucial support in the form of airborne refuelling of fighter aircraft, surveillance planes -- including unmanned robotic drones -- and specialists to draw up bombing targets.

The United States conducted about 75 percent of all refuelling missions and 70-80 percent of all surveillance and reconnaissance flights, US officials said.

The American military currently has more than 70 aircraft deployed in the operation and more than 7,000 personnel have taken part, officials said.

The Libya campaign offers a stark contrast to the Kosovo war in 1999. In Libya, European and Canadian aircraft dropped 95 percent of all precision guided munitions while in Kosovo, 95 percent of all munitions were launched by US pilots, a senior NATO diplomat said.

Fine words from NATO and Libyan new regime fighters about protecting civilians mean little to the furious residents of Sirte, whose homes are destroyed and relatives killed in the battle to capture Moamer Kadhafi's hometown.

"Why is NATO bombing us?" asked Faraj Mussa, whose blue minivan was carrying his family of eight jammed in beside mattresses and suitcases as they fled the city this week.

"We were afraid to come out because they (Kadhafi loyalists) told us that the NTC (National Transitional Council) would cut our throats. But we couldn't stay because of the bombing -- we had to take the risk," he said.

Salem Hamees, leaving with his extended family, said: "Our house was hit by a bomb. It destroyed three rooms. We were lucky because we were in the other rooms.

"We don't know where it came from. The NATO bombing is scary. It's all scary. There is no difference between their bombs," he said.

Sirte is one of the last two hold-outs of the fugitive dictator's loyalists and the NTC fighters who have besieged it since mid-September blitz it most days with canon, tank and anti-aircraft fire.

NATO planes roar overhead, enforcing the alliance's United Nations mandate to protect civilians by taking out Kadhafi's remaining military hardware and thus providing the air cover that gives NTC fighters the upper hand in their siege.

But many among the thousands of Sirte residents who managed to escape said the biggest danger was not Kadhafi loyalists but the bombs that drop from the sky and the ones the NTC fighters lob into their Mediterranean port city.

International aid workers also say that NATO bombing is sometimes doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do in the city that was home to around 100,000 people before the Libyan revolution kicked off in February.

When asked if NATO was fulfilling its mission to protect civilians, one aid worker, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly, replied: "It wouldn't seem so."

"There's a lot of indiscriminate fire," he said, adding that many of the Sirte residents and doctors he had spoken to had complained of the deadly results of NATO airstrikes.

NATO regularly rejected accusations by the Kadhafi regime during the revolution of killing innocent civilians with its strikes.

It did so again on Wednesday when asked by AFP if its bombs might have killed non-combatants in Sirte.

"When we absolutely need to intervene to protect the population, we do so with utmost care, targeting only military assets and using precision guided munitions to avoid civilian casualties," a NATO official said.

The official noted in an email that the alliance "has not conducted any strike in Sirte since last weekend and is siding with none of the forces on the ground."

The strikes may have stopped for the moment but until last weekend they were an almost daily event.

Last Saturday, for example, NATO warplanes hit "one command and control node, one infantry and anti-aircraft artillery staging area, two armed vehicles, four armoured infantry vehicles, one tank," according to the official.

Which is a lot of attacks on an area of just a few square kilometres bounded on one side by the Mediterranean sea and on the others by NTC positions.

The new regime forces also insist they are doing their utmost to protect civilians. They say they have been holding off their final assault on the city in order to let as many residents as possible escape.

But they blast the city on most days. On Wednesday, fighters shelled Kadhafi's forces for several hours using tanks, anti-tank rockets and multiple rocket launchers from positions 1.5 kilometres (a mile) south of the showpiece Ouagadougou Conference Centre and the nearby Ibn Sina hospital.

Several apartment blocks are situated next to the hospital.

Last Saturday, when the Red Cross managed for the first time to take medical supplies into the city, several rockets landed within the hospital compound while they were there.

Fighters firing a multiple rocket launcher and a tank at a suspected sniper position in the heart of the city on Wednesday said there was no risk of hitting civilians because there was none left.

"They're all gone," said one fighter. But aid workers say there are still thousands of non-combatants there.

From the same position one day last week, an AFP reporter watched as youngsters and middle-aged men queued up to take turns at firing missiles from a tank into the urban area.

Related Links

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

NATO allies debate when to end to Libya air war
Brussels (AFP) Oct 6, 2011 - NATO allies debated on Thursday how quickly to end the bombing campaign in Libya as they reviewed progress in their plans to withdraw combat troops from the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.

With Moamer Kadhafi diehards surrounded by the new leadership's forces in Sirte and Bani Walid, and the fallen Libyan leader in hiding, the number of NATO air strikes has drastically declined in recent weeks.

NATO officials say the six-month-old air war will continue as long as Kadhafi loyalists pose a threat to civilians.

"Sirte is extremely symbolic. But it is important that we no longer have pockets of resistance," said French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet.

"Whether Kadhafi disappears from the scene is important, but it's not enough," Longuet told reporters before a second day of talks with NATO counterparts.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US Admiral James Stavridis, recommended to the ministers late Wednesday that the mission continue until the new regime consolidates control of the entire country, diplomats said.

Once the country is deemed secure, Stavridis suggested that the no-fly zone carry on for two weeks until NATO is "sure that fighting has ended," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kadhafi loyalists have made it tricky for NATO warplanes to bomb them by hiding in built-up areas, using civilians as human shields to deter air strikes, officials said.

NATO reported eight air strikes in Bani Walid, a southern desert town, on Wednesday but no bombings in Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte in the east, compared to between 15 and 20 raids daily across Libya earlier in the mission.

The campaign began in March when Kadhafi troops had rebels on the back foot. NATO's strikes helped tip the balance in favour of a loose coalition of opponents who in August overran the capital Tripoli , winning international recognition.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the decision to halt the operation would hinge on the ability of National Transitional Council (NTC) forces to maintain order -- not on the fate of Kadhafi.

"The termination of the operation is not dependent on Colonel Kadhafi," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Officials said the alliance had to make a political judgement, balancing the need to prevent attacks on civilians while avoiding the impression of meddling.

"It will be a political decision, which will involve the UN and the NTC and it will be a question of an international concert of opinion that the time has come," said a senior NATO official.

"The big risk is that one day we stop and the next day there is a massacre, in which case we would have failed."

Senior military officers overseeing the operation from Naples, Italy, were increasingly eager to call an end to the effort given the retreat of Kadhafi's troops, officials said.

But alliance members are waiting for a clear conclusion to fighting in Sirte and Bani Walid, where NTC troops are trying to finish off Kadhafi loyalists.

Success in Afghanistan, a war marking its 10th anniversary on Friday, also depends on the ability of local forces to ensure security for the population.

NATO is gradually handing control of the battlefield to Afghan forces, with the goal of withdrawing foreign combat troops from the country by 2014. Some 140,000 NATO soldiers are in Afghanistan, including 100,000 Americans.

Efforts to find a peaceful end to the war with the Taliban were dealt a major blow last month when former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, the government's peace envoy, was killed by a suicide bomber.

"Transition is on track and it will not be derailed," Rasmussen said. "To those who only offer death and destruction to the Afghan people, we say, 'you will not triumph'."


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

NATO weighs end to Libya campaign
Brussels (AFP) Oct 5, 2011
NATO allies are weighing when to call an end to the air campaign in Libya now that Moamer Kadhafi's forces are surrounded and often beyond the reach of Western warplanes, officials said Wednesday. Forces loyal to the deposed dictator are encircled in Sirte and Bani Walid and hiding among the local population, rendering NATO fighter jets less effective and raising the risk of civilian casualt ... read more

THAAD Weapon System Achieves Intercept of Two Targets at Pacific Missile Range Facility

Spain to host ships for NATO missile shield

Russia renews demands for missile shield 'guarantees'

Northrop Grumman Receives Systems Engineering Contract for MDA Precision Tracking Space System

Northrop Grumman Upgrades Enhance Royal Australian Navy Frigate Anti-Ship Missile Defence Systems

Alarm rises over missing Libyan missiles

Thousands of Libya missiles on the loose

Iran equips marine forces with 'cruise' missile

The Navy and Marine Corps Select Lockheed Martin/Kaman Unmanned K-MAX for Afghanistan Deployment

Ground SATCOM Systems from ASC Signal Will Support L-3 Communications Systems-West in Maritime Surveillance

US drone kills three militants in NW Pakistan: officials

US drone kills three Taliban in Pakistan: officials

Boeing FAB-T Demonstrates High-Data-Rate Communications with AEHF Satellite Test Terminal

NRL TacSat-4 Launches to Augment Communications Needs

US Space Completes Study for USAF and Identifies Cost-Effective Ways to Procure MILSATCOM

Northrop Grumman Tech Pivotal in US Marine Corps' MTAOM Command and Control System

India's upgraded Arjun tank set for trials

US Army to Procure 56 Sentinel Battlefield Radars From ThalesRaytheonSystems

Chilean howitzer upgrade program under way

Raytheon Receives FAA In-Service Milestone Decision to Upgrade Long Range Radars

Accused global arms dealer goes on trial Tuesday

Defense spending and U.S. deficit

Air National Guards trains on Lakotas

Arabs plan $63 billion air power buildup

Russia claims China spy arrest

US warns NATO it won't be able to fill defence gaps

After Libya, US cannot bail out NATO shortfalls: Panetta

Turkey builds Mideast profile

Boeing and BAE Systems to Develop Integrated Directed Energy Weapon for US Navy


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement