Update: Libya Mission
France and Britain take the lead against Qaddafi as civil war rages in the North African country
TOP: Fighter jets manned by NATO forces are helping enforce the no-fly zone in Libya. (imago / Xinhua / NewsCom)
BOTTOM: Qaddafi’s base is the country’s capital, Tripoli, while the rebels formed their own stronghold in Benghazi. (Jim McMahon)
On Monday, American forces began handing over leadership of the military mission in Libya to other countries, including France and Britain. The United States, along with other nations, has been supporting rebels fighting the government of Libya, a nation in North Africa, with strategic military strikes for more than two weeks.
“We have intervened to stop a massacre,” President Obama said in a speech last week. “And we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians.”
NATO forces, including the U.S., were asked by several countries to help stop Libya’s leader, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, from attacking his own people last month. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a group of 28 countries in Europe and North America, including the U.S., whose militaries are allies—people or groups joined together for common causes.
In February, thousands of people took to the streets of Libya in protests similar to those that recently took place in Egypt. They demanded that Qaddafi step down. But Qaddafi, a dictator who has ruled Libya for 41 years, refuses to leave. To stay in power, Qaddafi began using the country’s military to bomb entire cities where rebels are known to have significant influence.
FIGHTING FOR PEACE
American forces have been leading the charge to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. A no-fly zone is an area where most airplanes are not permitted to fly. NATO hopes this will stop Qaddafi’s air attacks.
As a way of enforcing the no-fly zone, planes flown by NATO member countries may attack Qaddafi’s planes to prevent them from bombing cities that are rebel strongholds.
But on Monday, U.S. forces began to turn over control of the mission to other NATO allies. America took a leadership role at first because of the U.S. military’s extensive resources. Now American warships, submarines, and missiles will be used mostly to support the militaries of other countries as they help the rebels wage war against Qaddafi’s forces.
This shift in power was always part of the plan. The U.S. already has troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it cannot spare additional manpower in Libya.
Turkey also announced plans to start discussions between Qaddafi’s government and representatives from the rebels. It hopes to get both sides to agree to a cease-fire—a period during a war when both sides agree to stop fighting.
Protests continue in several other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Recently, governments in Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain have also taken violent measures to stop the protests. What made Libya different enough for America’s military to get involved?
A number of nations in the region had asked that other countries step in to prevent innocent citizens from being killed. Qaddafi’s forces were getting ready to send warplanes to attack Benghazi, a city that Libya’s rebels had made their base. That’s when the United Nations—an international organization of 192 countries—voted in favor of a no-fly zone to try to stop that from happening.
“In this particular country—Libya—at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale,” President Obama said. “We had a unique ability to stop that violence.”