I’ve already reported this once, based on a too-optimistic Guardian report, so I’m a little gun-shy. But it does appear that NATO will take command of the military operation in Libya, after days of wrangling over the option from member states.
On the diplomatic front, Turkey said NATO members had resolved differences over the command and aims of the campaign, which would be transferred from the United States to the Western military alliance within one or two days.
“Compromise has been reached in principle in a very short time,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters. “The operation will be handed over to NATO completely.”
Earlier, the claim was that NATO would take the tactical operational command, while political oversight would remain with the coalition and its Arab partners, who are not members of NATO. So we’ll have to see how this plays out.
But the idea that NATO command means that the US is relieved of duty in Libya is kind of silly. NATO members contribute to that command. The commander is likely to be an American general. We will still have a role to play.
I wish diplomatic efforts like this from the African Union would get more of a voice:
The African Union meanwhile invited officials from Gaddafi’s government, the opposition, the European Union, U.N. Security Council and neighboring Arab countries to discuss the crisis on Friday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
In other news, both government forces and rebels announced successes today. The Libyan government says it is in control of Misurata, but rebels claim to have picked off 30 snipers holed up in the city’s main hospital. The New York Times reports that the rebels have the momentum:
In Misurata, rebels say they are feeling reinvigorated by a second night of American and European air strikes against the Qaddafi forces that have besieged them. The rebels say they continue to battle a handful of Qaddafi gunmen in the city but that the armored units and artillery surrounding the city appeared to have pulled back, their supply and communication lines cut off by the air strikes.
The Qaddafi warships that had closed the port have left, the rebels say, allowing them to make arrangements with the international aide group Doctors Without Borders to evacuate 50 of their wounded by boat to Malta on Sunday. Mohamed, a rebel spokesman in Misrata, said that only two residents were wounded Thursday, following 109 deaths over the previous six days [...]
In one of the first signs of breakdown in discipline among the Qaddafi forces, rebels near the eastern city of Ajdabiya said they were in negotiations with a unit of pro-Qaddafi troops who have offered to abandon their position and withdraw further west. The unit, stationed at the northern entrance to the city, had lost contact with its commanders, a rebel spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani, said.
The negotiations, which were being conducted through a local imam, had hit a snag on the issue of whether the troops would keep their weaponry and withdraw further west or simply surrender, as the rebels were demanding.
I wouldn’t put a lot of trust in what either side was saying about their success, to be honest. Both have proven themselves wrong before.
And just to tag on to the question of who we’re fighting for in Libya, you can see from this story that the largest amount of foreign fighters in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 came from Libya, mostly from the eastern rebel-held cities.
So there’s that.