Wednesday, June 15, 2011

United States Congress Votes Against Funds for Libya War

U.S. Congress votes against funds for Libya war

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 00:00
Nigerian Guardian

THE United States (U.S.) House of Representatives has voted to prohibit the use of funds for American military operations in Libya.

Lawmakers adopted the amendment to a military appropriations bill by a vote of 248 to 163.

A number of Congress members recently expressed their dissatisfaction at President Barack Obama’s decision to go ahead with operations in Libya in March and to continue without congressional authorisation.

The amendment, introduced by Democratic representative Brad Sherman from California, invokes the War Powers Resolution, a 1973 law that limits presidential powers on sending troops abroad into combat zones without the consent of Congress.

Sherman stated that “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of the War Powers Act.”

According to the War Powers Resolution, the President must seek congressional authorisation to send U.S. troops into combat and must withdraw American forces within 60 days if the Congress has not authorised the military action.

The same measure was presented in another bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security but failed to pass on June 2.

Lawmakers must still approve the appropriations bill as a whole and the measure must still be approved by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Tunisia flew an F-5 warplane and a reconnaissance helicopter along its border with Libya yesterday, witnesses and a police source said, after Libyan troops fired several rockets into Tunisia.

Libyan troops fired Grad rockets from positions controlled by Muammar Gaddafi over the border overnight, witnesses said, in an assault likely to raise already high tensions between the two countries.

The explosions caused no damage or injuries, and are likely to have been targeted toward anti-Gaddafi rebels controlling the border with Tunisia along Libya’s Western Mountains region.

“An F-5 plane and a helicopter were patrolling at the border with Libya to survey the situation after the rockets fell on the region of Mrabeh,” a police source in the area told Reuters by telephone.

Two witnesses in the border region also said they saw the aircraft circling in the sky overhead.

“At least five rockets fell on Tunisian soil today in the Mrabeh. It was a heavy bombardment from Gaddafi’s side of the mountains,” said resident Mohammed Nagez, a local trader.

Another local police officer, who could not be named, said Tunisian security forces feared the rockets might hit the main border crossing at Wazen, where thousands of people are often gathered at any one time.

The last time Libyan forces fired rockets into Tunisia, on May 17, the Tunisian government threatened to report Libya to the United Nations (UN) Security Council for committing “enemy actions.”

The White House has been under rising pressure from congressional critics demanding details about U.S. goals in Libya and questioning the likely costs and duration of the campaign, in which Washington now has a supporting role.

The House of Representatives recently passed a symbolic resolution chiding President Obama for not seeking congressional approval for U.S. involvement in Libya and giving him until June 17 to respond.

European military leaders say they will struggle to maintain operations in Libya if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

Britain’s naval chief Admiral Mark Stanhope said he was comfortable with NATO’s decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September. Beyond that, he said, the government would need to make “challenging decisions.”

“If we do it longer than six months we will have to re-prioritise forces,” he said.

Even as Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. David Richards, insisted yesterday that Britain could continue its operations in Libya as long as they need to, another senior NATO official said that if the alliance’s intervention in Libya’s civil war continues, the issue of resources would become “critical.”

Gen. Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, told reporters during a NATO conference in Serbia that “at this stage the forces engaged do have the means necessary to conduct the operation.”

But he noted that “if the operation were to last long, of course, the resource issue will become critical.

“If additional resources are needed, this of course will need a political decision,” he said.

The comments came amid concerns about mounting costs for the Libya campaign - and its lack of a clear endgame. Britain has a destroyer, a mine-hunter, an assault ship with four Apache helicopter jets, and a submarine engaged off the coast of Libya.

“The British military planned for a six-month campaign, but had believed the actual mission would be much quicker,” said Shashank Joshi, an associated fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defence think tank.

“The campaign has been more intense than they anticipated. It’s gone from setting up a no fly zone to all out attacks.”

Last week, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates offered an unusual public rebuke to the United States’ European allies, saying NATO’s shaky operations in Libya exposed the alliance’s shortcomings and opened the “real possibility of collective military irrelevance.” Gates called on members to look at new ways of raising combat capabilities in procurement, training and logistics.

Joshi suggested that if operations carried on into the autumn, Britain would have to redeploy more attack helicopters and some fixed wing aircraft from Afghanistan to Libya.

Britain is carrying out steep spending cuts intended to cut the country’s budget deficit. The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and its Harrier jump jets were scrapped — a decision that has made it more difficult for Britain to operate in the Libyan mission.

Had the Ark Royal remained in place, the Harrier jets could have been deployed in 20 minutes, rather than the 90 minutes taken to send Tornado and Typhoon aircraft from a base in Italy.

But Defence Secretary Liam Fox said Britain had shown it had the resources to play its part in the NATO operation.

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