Just because Nicolas Sarkozy believes something does not make it untrue. The French president was adamant that Nato shouldn’t take over the Libya campaign. He preferred to run an ad hoc coalition of the willing. Britain, however, was keen for the alliance to take control of a mission that seemed too loosely-organised. Once the United States decided to fade into the background of the military operation, the impetus for a switch to Nato grew.
A few weeks into the transfer, people are beginning to wonder whether President Sarkozy was right in the first place. According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, Nato is doing what it did in Bosnia: blocking the rebels from arming themselves. Hala Jaber reports (£) how a vessel ferrying weapons from Benghazi to Misrata was forced into international waters by a Nato ship only to be told it could not return to Libyan waters.
The air campaign has come under sustained criticism from rebels, who feel that NATO has been both bureaucratic and backward-leaning. Media-wise, Nato certainly seems to have lost control of its message. And then there is what has been called the “durability issue”. Since the US dialled down its role, questions have emerged about the alliance’s capacity — actual planes available — to continue the operation.
All in all, it is getting to crunch time for Nato if it wants to both rebuild its image and prove that it can manage operations in Libya.