[Marxism] NYT: Surveillance and coordination with NATO aided rebels

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Mon Aug 22 00:17:36 MDT 2011


Surveillance and Coordination With NATO Aided Rebels Bryan Denton for The
New York Times

Published: August 21, 2011


Photo caption: Rebels in Zawiyah examined the body of a Qaddafi soldier
killed in what the rebels said was a NATO airstrike. Through Saturday, NATO
and its allies had flown 7,459 missions to attack targets.  >



WASHINGTON - As rebel forces in Libya converged on Tripoli on Sunday,
American and NATO officials cited an intensification of American aerial
surveillance in and around the capital city as a major factor in helping to
tilt the balance after months of steady erosion of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's


The officials also said that coordination between NATO and the rebels, and
among the loosely organized rebel groups themselves, had become more
sophisticated and lethal in recent weeks, even though NATO's mandate has
been merely to protect civilians, not to take sides in the conflict.


NATO's targeting grew increasingly precise, one senior NATO diplomat said,
as the United States established around-the-clock surveillance over the
dwindling areas that Libyan military forces still controlled, using armed
Predator drones to detect, track and occasionally fire at those forces.


At the same time, Britain, France and other nations deployed special forces
on the ground inside Libya to help train and arm the rebels, the diplomat
and another official said.


"We always knew there would be a point where the effectiveness of the
government forces would decline to the point where they could not
effectively command and control their forces," said the diplomat, who was
granted anonymity to discuss confidential details of the battle inside


"At the same time," the diplomat said, "the learning curve for the rebels,
with training and equipping, was increasing. What we've seen in the past two
or three weeks is these two curves have crossed."


Through Saturday, NATO and its allies had flown 7,459 strike missions, or
sorties, attacking thousands of targets, from individual rocket launchers to
major military headquarters. The cumulative effect not only destroyed
Libya's military infrastructure but also greatly diminished the ability of
Colonel Qaddafi's commanders to control forces, leaving even committed
fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations.


On Saturday, the last day NATO reported its strikes, the alliance flew only
39 sorties against 29 targets, 22 of them in Tripoli. In the weeks after the
initial bombardments in March, by contrast, the allies routinely flew 60 or
more sorties a day.


"NATO got smarter," said Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst with the
RAND Corporation who follows Libya closely. "The strikes were better
controlled. There was better coordination in avoiding collateral damage."
The rebels, while ill-trained and poorly organized even now, made the most
of NATO's direct and indirect support, becoming more effective in selecting
targets and transmitting their location, using technology provided by
individual NATO allies, to NATO's targeting team in Italy.


"The rebels certainly have our phone number," the diplomat said. "We have a
much better picture of what's happening on the ground."


Rebel leaders in the west credited NATO with thwarting an attempt on Sunday
by Qaddafi loyalists to reclaim Zawiyah with a flank assault on the city.


Administration officials greeted the developments with guarded elation that
the overthrow of a reviled dictator would vindicate the demands for
democracy that have swept the Arab world.


A State Department's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that President
Obama, who was vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, and other senior American
officials were following events closely.


Privately, many officials cautioned that it could still be several days or
weeks before Libya's military collapses or Colonel Qaddafi and his inner
circle abandon the fight. As Saddam Hussein and his sons did in Iraq after
the American invasion in 2003, the Libyan leader could hold on and lead an
insurgency from hiding even after the capital fell, the officials said.


"Trying to predict what this guy is going to do is very, very difficult," a
senior American military officer said.


A senior administration official said the United States had evidence that
other members of Colonel Qaddafi's inner circle were negotiating their own
exits, but there was no reliable information on the whereabouts or state of
mind of Colonel Qaddafi. Audio recordings released by Colonel Qaddafi on
Sunday night, which expressed defiance, were of limited use in discerning
his circumstances.


Even if Colonel Qaddafi were to be deposed, there is no clear plan for
political succession or maintaining security in the country. "The leaders
I've talked to do not have a clear understanding how this will all play
out," said the senior officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to
maintain diplomatic relationships.


The United States is already laying plans for a post-Qaddafi Libya. Jeffrey
D. Feltman, an assistant secretary of state, was in Benghazi over the
weekend for meetings with the rebels' political leadership about overseeing
a stable, democratic transition. A senior administration official said that
the United States wanted to reinforce the message of rebel leaders that they
seek an inclusive transition that would bring together all the segments of
Libyan society.


"Even as we welcome the fact that Qaddafi's days are numbered and we want to
see him go as quickly as possible, we also want to send a message that the
goal should be the protection of civilians," the official said.


The administration was making arrangements to bring increased medical
supplies and other humanitarian aid into Libya.


With widespread gunfire in the streets of Tripoli, Human Rights Watch
cautioned NATO to take measures to guard against the kind of bloody acts of
vengeance, looting and other violence that followed the fall of Saddam
Hussein's government.


"Everyone should be ready for the prospect of a very quick, chaotic
transition," said Tom Malinowski, the director of the Washington office of
Human Rights Watch.


A version of this article appeared in print on August 22, 2011, on page A9
of the New York edition with the headline: Sharper Surveillance and NATO
Coordination Aided Rebels



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