BRUSSELS: One of NATO’s top commanders said on Tuesday, the alliance has sufficient means to conduct its Libya campaign but warned that the issue of resources will become critical if the conflict dragged on.
“At this stage the forces engaged do have the means necessary to conduct the operations. If additional sources are needed this of course will need a political decision,” Supreme Allied Commander of Transformations, French General Stephane Abrial said.
“If the operation was to last longer, of course the resource issue will become critical,” he warned at a NATO meeting in Belgrade.
The statement comes days after outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates issued a stinging rebuke to NATO allies as only eight of NATO’s 28 members are conducting air strikes against Libyan leader Moamer Qaddafi’s regime.
Abrial told delegates that the financial crisis had caused trouble for many NATO members and made adjustments necessary.
“The Libya crisis came as a surprise but we are facing it and we are conducting this operation with all the means available and the best way we can. We are confident that this operation will be successful,” Abrial said
Britain’s tough choice over Libya campaign
Britain could have to make tough choices about its military priorities if the Libya campaign drags on, the head of the Royal Navy said Monday, in comments that called recent defence cuts into question.
Admiral Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, said Britain might have to rethink its priorities if the operation went on longer than six months.
Elements of the campaign would have been cheaper and “much more reactive” if Britain had still had an aircraft carrier, he argued.
The Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Ark Royal, and its Harrier jump jets, returned to base for the last time in December, leaving Britain without an aircraft carrier capable of launching jets for the next decade.
Britain’s biggest active warship was axed as part of eight-percent defence spending cuts introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government as part of its bid to get Britain’s record deficit under control.
“How long can we go on as we are in Libya?” Stanhope asked at a media briefing.
“Certainly in terms of NATO’s current time limit that has been extended to 90 days, we are comfortable with that. Beyond that, we might have to request the government to make some challenging decisions about priorities.”
Britain has been one of the chief players in the NATO military alliance enforcing a United Nations mandate.
Their mission is to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya as leader Moamer Kadhafi attempts to crush a rebel uprising.
“If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritise forces. That is being addressed now,” Stanhope said.
“It could be from around home waters. I will not prejudge what that decision will be.”
But the admiral pointed out that Harriers could have been deployed from an aircraft carrier in 20 minutes rather than the 90 it takes to send Tornado and Typhoon jets from an airbase in Italy.
Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox said however that the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDRS), which ushered in the military cuts, would not be reopened.
“Operations in Libya are showing how capable we are post-SDSR as a leading military power with the fourth largest defence budget in the world,” he said.
“We continue to have the resources necessary to carry out the operations we are undertaking and have spare capacity. Our planning assumptions remain valid and we have been able to effectively conduct missions over Libya. We are now progressing with the disposal of the Harrier force.”
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