Gen. Abdelfatah Yunis, commander of Libya’s rebel forces, said April 7 that NATO apologized for mistakenly hitting a column of rebel tanks near the eastern town of Ajdabiya. Yunis said the deadly air-strike occurred despite a warning to NATO that the tanks were being moved to the front line. By conflicting reports, the air-strike killed between four and 134 rebel fighters. NATO says it is investigating the incident. “We would like to receive answers about what happened. We would like a rational and convincing explanation,” Gen. Yunis said. (BBC News, April 7) High-level US diplomatic figures from the US, UK and France are meanwhile said to have met with leading members of the Transitional National Council (TNC) to discuss (ostensibly “humanitarian”) aid to the rebels. Only France, Italy and Qatar have thus far officially recognized the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. (AFP, April 7)
In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee April 7, Gen. Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, broached sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force to back up the rebels. Ham said the situation in Libya had reached a “military stalemate” now, and was more likely to remain that way since the US has transferred control of the operation to NATO. Asked if the US would provide ground troops, Ham said, “I suspect there might be some consideration of that. My personal view at this point would be that that’s probably not the ideal circumstance, again for the regional reaction that having American boots on the ground would entail.” (CBS, AGI, April 7)
In a Senate hearing last week, US Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, testified that intelligence agencies had picked up “flickers” of the presence of extremists among Libyan rebel fighters. Noting that most of the opposition’s leaders are “responsible men and women who are struggling against Col. Qaddafi,” Stavridis also said that intelligence has reported the presence of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah on the ground, although he lacks sufficient detail to say that their numbers are “significant.” (WSJ, March 30)
See our last post on the Libya crisis.