Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on national television while holding a meeting with traditional leaders. Gaddafi has been subjected to four assassination attempts since March 19., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Gates Calls Others to Join Libya Fight
By STEPHEN FIDLER and JULIAN BARNES
Wall Street Journal
BRUSSELS—In a "very blunt" speech Wednesday, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates named five European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that he said should boost their contributions to the alliance's air mission over Libya.
At a closed-door meeting of defense ministers here, he called on Germany and Poland to start participating in the mission, to which neither has yet made a direct contribution, according to several Nato officials and diplomats. Mr. Gates, who steps down on June 30, also cited Spain, the Netherlands and Turkey as allies that could do more.
Mr. Gates's speech at a lunchtime session was described by British defense secretary Liam Fox as "very blunt." Dr. Fox said he delivered a similar message. "I made the point that too many [allies] are doing too little."
The message was echoed by others including French minister Gerard Longuet and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Mr. Rasmussen said the alliance had enough assets to continue the Libya operation, but broader backing among the allies was needed to sustain it.
"I have requested such broadened support either by new contributions or increased contributions or more flexible use of assets provided for the operation," he said. NATO has 28 members and only eight countries have flown ground-strike missions in Libya.
German defense minister Thomas de Maizière said that Germany already supported the mission and rejected the calls. "In this case, we are not contributing military capabilities," he said after the meeting. "And we will not do so." But in a post-conflict stage in Libya, he said Germany would be "ready to carry responsibility."
Carme Chacón Piqueras of Spain, which helps enforce the no-fly zone, said publicly that Spain wouldn't expand its mission, and told other ministers that to do so would require parliamentary approval. That may be difficult for a minority government.
Representatives from the other governments didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
A senior U.S. official said that the Libya operations are stressing many of the participating countries, particularly as costs rise for maintenance and fuel, and air crews are tested by an increasing tempo of sorties.
"It stresses the crews, it does. These are smaller countries, it doesn't mean they won't do it, they will," the senior official said.
France and Britain carry out the most ground strike missions. But U.S. officials singled out Denmark and Norway for "punching above their weight." Norway has indicated its forces are at their limit and will not be able to continue to contribute at the same rate. Denmark plans to maintain its current rate. Another U.S. official said the debate in the NATO meeting was more about burden sharing than the sustainability of the mission. Under NATO rules, an ally that participates in a mission pays for its own contribution.
Although the U.S. has stepped back from ground strikes, it still carries out a majority of air sorties in the background, playing a major role in refueling, surveillance, and air-defense suppression.
The senior official said the rate of strikes in Libya has been increasing in the last few weeks because of improving intelligence. The U.S. also provided nine additional air-refueling tankers, and that added capacity has allowed an increased tempo in airstrikes, the official said.
"We are getting better, over time, about acquiring targets,the intelligence is getting better," the official said.
NATO carried out its heaviest day of strikes on Tripoli on Tuesday since the alliance's campaign began in March. The pace slowed Wednesday though loud explosions still rumbled across the city before sunrise and then sporadically during the day. NATO confirmed it had conducted 66 strike sorties on Tuesday, many of them in daylight hours.
According to people in the meeting, Sweden, one of the non-NATO countries participating in the mission, has volunteered to provide extra air surveillance and tanker assets. Ministers agreed formally to extend the mission a further 90 days from June 27.
Mr. Rasmussen said: "For Gadhafi, it is no longer a question of if he goes but when he goes. It may take weeks, but it could happen tomorrow and when he goes the international community has to be ready."
But he foresaw no NATO "boots on the ground" for the post-conflict period. Though the alliance would be ready to assist others afterward, if there was a need, a clear mandate and international support, it wouldn't take a lead role, he said.
—Joe Parkinson in Tripoli contributed to this article.
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