Britain Puts Troops on Ground in Libya as Europe and Arab League Question Legality of Allied Attacks

March 22nd, 2011 - by admin

PressTV & Al Jazeera – 2011-03-22 01:14:41

Britain Deploys SAS Troops in Libya

(March 21, 2011) — The UK Military has deployed several teams of its Special Air Service (SAS) forces to Libya in a mission to identify targets for bombing raids. The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) highly trained units, known as “Smash” teams, have been commissioning reconnaissance missions inside the North African country to report the location of Libyan airfields, supply routes, radar stations and anti-aircraft defense batteries, the Daily Mail reported.

British defense chiefs have used this intelligence to help RAF Tornado jets and Royal Navy’s submarines in the Mediterranean, HMS Triumph, carry out devastating strikes, the daily said.

A senior defense source confirmed that there are special forces operating in Libya for more than three weeks now and that more could be sent, according to the report. “You want to have men on the ground doing laser targeting and reconnaissance, gathering intelligence about the situation and updating the target list,” said the source. “The other point is that if one of our planes gets shot down you have to send people in to get them out,” it added.

The troops on the ground use a process called “painting a target” to pinpoint a site to be attacked. A laser beam from a portable device is bounced off a building or military installation from a few hundred yards. This is detected by the aircraft or a missile sensor, which then deploys the weapon.

The special forces have also been trying to discover the whereabouts of the Libyan army’s most potent anti-aircraft weapons.

Libya has more than 216 ground-to-air missiles, with the majority deployed around Tripoli. Despite dating back to the 1980s, the Russian-made SA5A “Gammon” long-range system can fire missiles between 150 and 200 miles, far enough to hit targets across the Mediterranean.

SAS soldiers are also hoping to find arms dumps containing some of Libya’s 400-plus SA-7 “Grail” portable anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles. Members of the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment are also operating behind enemy lines in Libya, special forces sources said.

Libya Invasion Comes under Attack

(March 21, 2011) — Several countries and organizations have criticized the Western alliance’s invasion of Libya, saying the attack exceeds bounds set by the UN resolution. The Arab League, Russia, China and the Latin American ALBA bloc unanimously condemned the attacks by the UK, US, France and their allies after reports that at least 48 civilians have been killed so far in the air raids.

British Tornado jets bombed various targets within Libya in the first day of military action Saturday to enforce UN Security Council resolution 1973, which provides for a no-fly zone and the defense of Libyan civilians.

The Arabs’ refusal to get involved in the bombing campaign has sparked concern and provoked comparisons with the unpopular 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has distanced himself from the Western military intervention, saying that he had “not wanted to see the killing of civilians.”

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” said Moussa.

The UK government, which once again has gone to another war without receiving parliamentary approval first, was seeking lawmakers’ support Monday for its military action in Libya.

Although a yes vote was expected in the House of Commons, but Prime Minister David Cameron had to answer what the aim of the intervention was, at a time when the country is enforcing cuts even to its defense budget as part of the austerity drive to reduce record deficit.

Furthermore, anti-war campaigners warned that the imperialist bombing campaign against a third oil-rich country in 10 years would create “many civilian casualties” and enslave the population under the domination of the west.

The Stop the War Coalition spokesman Andrew Burgin warned that the motive of the intervention was regime change, which is illegal under international law.

“It looks like they are going way beyond the terms of the UN resolution,” he said. “The firing of 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles was a declaration of full-scale war on Libya, not just the supposed no-fly zone which we’ve been presented with,” added the spokesman.

Europe Divided over Libya Mission
Al Jazeera

(March 21, 2011) — The international military campaign in Libya has created apparent divisions between coalition leaders carrying out the UN-sanctioned operation and other world powers.

The UN-backed air raids mounted so far against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have been carried out by Britain, France and the US, acting outside of their NATO roles.

Calls for the NATO alliance to take over the enforcement of the no-fly zone have been declined by Turkey, while other members have expressed concerns over whether NATO aircraft and equipment would be diverted from other missions, including the one in Afghanistan.

William Hague, the British foreign minister, refused on Monday to rule out using the coalition air raids to target Gaddafi, saying it depended on “circumstances at the time”. But Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said such action would be “unwise” and Laurent Teisseire, the French defence ministry spokesman, said “the answer is no,” when asked about the subject.

Medieval ‘Crusade’
In Russia, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, criticised the UN resolution that sanctioned the use of force in Libya, calling it a “medieval call to crusade.”

“The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin as telling workers on a visit to a missile factory. “To me, it resembles some sort of medieval call to crusade when someone would appeal to someone to go to a certain place and free someone else.”

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, later said the reference to “crusades and so forth” was unacceptable, but although it appeared to be a rebuke, he did not mention Putin by name. Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from Brussels, said: “There’s lots of cracks just developing, some of them inside the European Union and some of them outside.

“The comments by Vladimir Putin, for example — who is prime minister, remember, he’s not the president so he’s supposed to be in charge of domestic, not foreign policy … demonstrate how this campaign in Libya is driving wedges between people who are supposed to be allies nowadays.”

The UN resolution imposing the no-fly zone on Libya was passed after Russia, which has a veto, abstained during the Security Council vote.

‘Gaddafi Not a Target’

As the military campaign continued in Libya, world leaders sought to reiterate the aim of the operation. British General Sir David Richards, the head of Britain’s armed forces, said on Monday that Gaddafi was “absolutely not” a target for military action.

The US has also said that the military operation is not aimed at regime change, but at enforcing a no-fly zone to protect Libya’s civilian population from attacks by Gaddafi forces. However, Barack Obama, the US president, said on Monday that the UN mandate authorising the no-fly zone is clear, and that the Libyan leader “needs to go.”

Obama also said that the US expects to transfer its lead role in the military action on Libya to its allies. “We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks,” he said.

Elsewhere, Amr Moussa, the Arab League chief, questioned the need for a bombardment of positions in Libya by coalition forces, saying they risked killing civilians.

The US has said there is no evidence civilians in Libya have been harmed in the air assault.
Meanwhile in Germany, Guido Westerwelle, the country’s foreign minster, speaking in Brussels, defended his country’s decision not to back air raids against Gaddafi’s forces.

He said that the Arab League criticism of the air attacks had vindicated Germany’s reluctance to back the action, but that Germany stood with other European Union countries in tightening sanctions against the Libyan government.

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