The purpose of the no fly zone in Libya is to prevent Gaddafi’s forces harming civilians. This is what Security Council Resolution 1973 allows for. In order to achieve this, ground attack aircraft have been used to take out easy to identify tanks and heavy equipment. Unfortunately, this has only been partially successful. Why? Because for ground attack aircraft to be successful they need information: information about targets, identification of targets and the position of friendly forces. This information is best provided from the ground from forward air controllers and from accurate intelligence from the front line.
So what to do? Gaddafi’s forces have already killed well over a thousand civilians and NATO is starting to get stick for not doing what it was mandated to do.
The best solution is to get trained forward air controllers on the ground and get accurate intelligence. The best way to do this is by deploying special forces who can operate clandestinely behind enemy lines if necessary. Does this up the ante? Maybe, but it’s what needs to be done. To train up Libyans to do the job would take too long.
This measure should not be seen as the ‘thin edge of the wedge’, a precursor to the deployment of ground forces, but as an essential measure to ensure that NATO can meet its obligations under Resolution 1973 to protect civilians.
Of course special forces may have already been deployed, in which case we don’t want to know. We will have a good indication when results start to improve.