The Libyan NATO intervention moved closer to a controversial step this week in its discussion of deploying ground troops. Concerned over problems in securing the port of Misrata, the UN has called for a “temporary cessation of hostilities.” The hope is to allow enough time for the evacuation of foreign aid workers and any Libyans who may want to leave the beleaguered city of Misrata. If the port is unable to be secured, further steps could presumably involve on-the-ground support.
Pentagon officials disclosed that American warplanes are indeed still involved in the strikes despite the Obama administration publicly removing itself from the mission. The NATO offensive is primarily spearheaded by France and Britain. However, the U.S. military remains a critical partner to the operations in terms of
equipment and technological capabilities.
Possible ground troop deployment raises concerns from those who were assured no ground troops would be deployed. A review of the UN Security Council resolution 1973 indeed bans “foreign occupation,” however it simultaneously authorizes the use of “all necessary means” to protect civilian populations.
The flexibility of the language of the resolution brings up the controversy over the international norm of the Responsibility to Protect. Under RtoP, foreign intervention is permissible in times of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. RtoP rests on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility.
The Security Council-issued resolution 1973 allowing the NATO-led airstrikes after the largely peaceful protests spurred by the jasmine revolutions throughout the region were brutally crushed by Gaddafi. While exact numbers vary, it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 opposition members and civilians have died since the government crackdown on the protests began in late February.
The rebel cause received a boost from a one day international summit occurring in Doha, Qatar on April 13. The summit, calling itself the Libya Contact Group, called for Gaddafi to step down, noting his loss of legitimacy. The summit also pledged both humanitarian and financial support to the opposition’s Transitional National Council in Benghazi.
While the summit agreed to set up a temporary “trust fund” as a means of funneling money to the leading opposition party, there was no consensus on whether to arm the rebels. Over 16 European and Middle Eastern countries were involved with the summit.
The opposition strongholds of Benghazi and Misrata are facing a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis as food and water supplies run low. On April 13, France delivered the first plane load of humanitarian aid since the no-fly zone was imposed on March 19.
The EU is said to have two battle groups, each with around 1,500 people ready to deploy in a short time frame. Germany, who initially abstained during
the Security Council vote on resolution 1973, stated it would be ready to deploy in ten days if the order was given. Germany’s participation is critical to deploying ground forces, providing just over a fourth of the troops.
Contact Cassie Denbow at firstname.lastname@example.org.