As NATO members express increasing dissatisfaction with the progress of military actions against Qaddafi, France has acknowledged that they are directly arming the Libyan rebels. France’s Colonel Thierry Burkhard told Al Jazeera that France had dropped machine guns, assault rifles and RPG’s along with other items in the Nafusa Mountains in Western Libya.
This development illuminates the stark contrast among NATO member states, some of whom are reconsidering their commitment to the mission against Qaddafi. Other nations, however, have decided that in order to facilitate Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s downfall, a more robust effort is necessary. “We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies,” Col. Thierry Burkhard was quoted by AFP news agency.
As the Libyan mission drags on into its fourth month, NATO member states have thus far been reluctant to become fully engaged with the rebels. This is partly due to the realities on the ground. NATO cannot be seen as playing a direct hand in Qaddafi’s downfall despite the fact that NATO warplanes have pounded Libyan ground assets for months. Rather, the mission must be seen as an attempt to protect civilians as authorized by the U.N. authorized no-fly zone. However, this lack of engagement has not gone unnoticed by the rebels on the ground. Frequently, when the rebels have been surrounded and have faced certain defeat only then have NATO warplanes intervened. Within NATO this development has generated raised eyebrows. Hans Hillen, the Dutch defense minister warned of “mission creep”.