NATO Commander Says Resilience of Qaddafi Loyalists Is Surprising
ndex.html?inline=nyt-per> ERIC SCHMITT
Published: October 11, 2011
WASHINGTON - The commander of
tlantic_treaty_organization/index.html?inline=nyt-org> NATO's air campaign
bya/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Libya has said that hundreds of organized
fighters loyal to Col.
dafi/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Muammar el-Qaddafi pose a "resilient and
fierce" threat in the two remaining pro-Qaddafi strongholds, and are
exploiting the urban settings to complicate the alliance's mission to
Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II of the Air Force, at the NATO command center
north of Bologna, Italy. He said Qaddafi loyalists were exploiting the urban
setting, which put NATO at a disadvantage.
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In the coastal city of Surt and the desert enclave of Bani Walid,
pro-Qaddafi snipers on rooftops and loyalist gunmen in pickup trucks are
terrorizing residents, killing some and intimidating many others, said the
officer, Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II of the United States Air Force.
General Jodice said a mix of African mercenaries and Qaddafi loyalist troops
have successfully sustained command-and-control and supply lines in staunch
defense of the cities, despite a NATO air campaign that is now in its
seventh month and a multipronged ground assault in Surt by anti-Qaddafi
"It's really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they've been,"
General Jodice said in a telephone interview on Sunday from his command
center just north of Bologna, Italy. "We're all surprised by the tenacity of
the pro-Qaddafi forces. At this point, they might not see a way out."
General Jodice's comments, coming on Sunday as former rebel fighters battled
their way into the heart of Surt and then were driven back by sniper and
mortar fire, tempered the boasts of anti-Qaddafi forces that Surt would soon
be theirs and once again underscored the limitations that have confronted
NATO throughout the air campaign.
NATO's mandate to protect civilians who are threatened or have come under
attack is complicated by the alliance's caution in striking targets - like
buildings where snipers are hiding - that could result in the death or
injury of civilians.
"The ability of NATO to affect the fighting inside the city is small," said
a senior NATO diplomat on Monday who was not authorized to speak on the
record. "The fight now is really between the forces on the ground."
Or as Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton, the chief of air staff for Britain's
Royal Air Force, put it last week in reviewing the successes and
shortcomings of the NATO military mission in Libya: "What air power has done
has allowed the conditions to be set for that militia to then prove
themselves capable of putting in place a good order and now, hopefully, a
While General Jodice and other NATO officials said that the stiff resistance
in the two cities did not threaten to spread to other parts of Libya, it
does underscore the need for the alliance's continued military involvement
as the post-Qaddafi provisional government struggles to build its own
security forces and protect civilians.
"NATO will continue to do the mission as long as needed, but no longer than
that," General Jodice said, echoing <http://nyti.ms/of1d5G
> statements from
NATO defense ministers who met in Brussels last week.
General Jodice's command plays a pivotal role in a convoluted chain that
starts with political orders from NATO headquarters in Brussels and passes
through a military command center in Naples, Italy. General Jodice, a native
of New Milford, N.J., oversees the delicate process of matching specific
allied aircraft, armed with specific weapons, to specific targets to achieve
the best results on the ground with the least risk to civilians.
More than 500 planners, analysts and operations specialists from 26
countries, including the non-NATO nations Sweden, Qatar, Jordan and the
United Arab Emirates, work from a small base set amid farms and cornfields
The alliance's pace of operations and number of targets attacked have
declined steadily since midsummer, especially in the past two weeks as bad
weather has grounded many missions at bases around the region.
Strike missions have dropped to about two dozen a day from 50 missions
daily, and allied warplanes rarely drop their precision-guided bombs these
days, allied officials say. Take the three-day period from last Friday
through Sunday, for example.
On Friday, one vehicle staging area was attacked and destroyed in Surt,
according to a NATO statement. On Saturday, there were no strikes. And on
Sunday, three armed vehicles in Bani Walid were hit.
The United States is still flying an array of surveillance planes and
ial_vehicles/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> Predator drones, particularly
near Surt. But General Jodice said there was no coordination or
intelligence-sharing between NATO and the anti-Qaddafi fighters, though
British and French special forces troops, among other advisers on the ground
in Libya, have for months helped train the former rebels and provided them
The advances by the anti-Qaddafi forces on Sunday came after three days of
intense fighting that included some of the Libyan conflict's bloodiest
battles to date. The former rebels seized a convention center and a hospital
in Surt, both of which General Jodice said had been used as sniper nests and
loyalist command posts.
General Jodice said in an e-mail on Monday that the Qaddafi loyalists in
Surt "still show a willingness to fight, which continues to threaten the
civilians remaining in the city." He said the fighters were "exploiting
Surt's built-up and populated environment; they have nowhere else to go,
they are reluctant to lay down their weapons and are trapping civilians
inside the city, preventing them from leaving safely.
"The situation is extremely dynamic and NATO continues to monitor and act,
when required, to protect civilians from attack or threat of attack."
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Received on Tue Oct 11 2011 - 14:28:49 EDT