Yesterday, NATO aircraft pounded the Libyan capital Tripoli in what has been reported to have been the heaviest bombing of Tripoli since the initiation of western airstrikes in March. Reuters reported that the city was struck “several times an hour” as opposed to “at most a few times a day” in the past. Already over the weekend, NATO announced that it was carrying out “intensive and sustained” strikes on Tripoli. Were American aircraft involved in the assault?
According to a report in the French daily Libération, France and Great Britain have each been carrying out 25% of the “offensive” flight missions in the NATO bombing campaign. Who is carrying out the remaining 50%? Only a handful of other NATO countries are known to be participating in the air campaign and none of them have anything like the military capacity of the United States. It is hard to imagine that NATO could undertake “intensive and sustained” strikes on Tripoli without American involvement.
Already on April 13 – this is to say two weeks after the so-called “handover” of the Libya mission to NATO – the Pentagon quietly admitted that American aircraft were still attacking Libyan targets. Overall, the US was reported to be assuming some 35% of flight missions at the time, including reconnaissance and refueling missions. This means that US forces minimally constituted the logistical backbone of the air campaign.
President Obama has refused to comply with the War Powers Act and seek congressional authorization for the Libyan campaign. The administration has attempted to justify this stance by claiming that American forces are merely serving a limited “support” role. Should not the American media and members of congress be demanding to know in just what this “support” consists?