Nato to take charge of no-fly zone – but US role is unclear

Nato reached a partial agreement late last night to take over the command of the no-fly zone over Libya, but deep divisions within the alliance mean the US will have to remain in charge of air strikes on Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces.

The decision to run parallel campaigns, with Nato's military headquarters planning missions against Gaddafi's air forces, but a separate US chain of command dealing with ground attacks, will set alarm bells ringing among military planners, given the scope for confusion and duplication it brings.

"At this moment there will still be a coalition operation and a Nato operation," said Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "We are considering whether Nato should take on the broader responsibility ... but that decision has not been made yet."

The complex deal appeared to be the only way to persuade Turkey to accept any Nato role. Ankara is opposed to Nato bombing ground targets, fearing civilian casualties in a fellow Muslim nation. In an effort to minimise the confusion, US Admiral Samuel J Locklear is expected to play a key operational role in both command chains.

Since air operations began on Saturday, the mission has been co-ordinated by US headquarters in Germany and Italy, but from the beginning the Obama administration had made clear they wanted the Europeans to take over after the first phase of the operation.

Washington is anxious to avoid being drawn into another prolonged conflict in the Muslim world and wanted to hand over command by early next week to Nato or to a combination of European allies. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Mr Rasmussen in insisting that Nato will continue to work on the military plans for the alliance's broader role to protect civilians against Libyan ground forces, even without the political agreement for them to do so.

"All 28 allies have also now authorised military authorities to develop an operations plan for Nato to take on the broader civilian protection mission. Nato is well-suited to co-ordinating this international effort," she said in Washington.

Opposition from France and Turkey to Nato taking command has led to a week of acrimonious wrangling at Nato's Brussels headquarters. Aside from the traditional French aversion to Nato, President Nicolas Sarkozy was concerned that putting the anti-Gaddafi operation under a Nato flag will alienate Arab opinion due to the alliance's role in Afghanistan.

One diplomat likened the poisonous atmosphere at allied headquarters to the deep splits in the alliance in 2003 when France and Germany opposed the invasion of Iraq. After meeting David Cameron and other European leaders at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Sarkozy denied there were splits over the way ahead in Libya.

"Europe is totally united," he said. "Gaddafi cannot count on any divisions in Europe, nor in the coalition." He declined to talk about the Nato decision, beyond saying that the alliance military command would still need to be overseen by a political committee made up of members of the wider coalition.

"The technical, military co-ordination of the operation will be done by Nato, but the political co-ordination will be done by the coalition, that is an agreement between myself with Mr Obama and Mr Cameron," he claimed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...