As differences emerged among its coalition partners over the leadership role of NATO over the Libyan military operations, the U.S. has asserted that the military alliance has specific command and control capabilities to enforce the no-fly-zone over Libya.
Countries like Italy want NATO to lead the Libyan operation; others led by France are against it as they argue that a Arab nations would be reluctant to participate in a NATO led mission.
Refraining from entering into such a controversy, the White House however praised the NATO capabilities in enforcing the UN Security Council resolution against Libya.
It appeared to be adopting a middle path on the controversy.
"There’s agreement that NATO has certain capabilities that are very important in terms of facilitating command and control. However there is a coalition, of course, that is broader than NATO, so this is not simply a NATO operation," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said.
"I think the agreement is that there are specific capabilities within NATO that would be important for the command and control to support the command and control of a no-fly zone," he noted.
NATO, Mr. Rhodes said, is essentially set up to coordinate the activities of many different military forces.
"The ability to coordinate different roles and responsibilities of partners in a military operation like this is something that exists within NATO," he said.
"Again, you’re going to have a situation going forward where different nations are going to make different contributions, whether it’s related to flying planes, providing other types of support, logistics or intelligence. So it’s important you have a command structure that can support different types of contributions of different nations," Mr. Rhodes said in response to a question.
Mr. Rhodes said there will be a broader structure in place so as to encompass non-NATO countries as well.
“So I think it’s an important distinction that there are capabilities within NATO that can support a command structure, but there is a broader coalition,” he observed, but was quick to add that nothing has been finalized yet.
“The command structure is not yet finalized, but I think what everybody does agree is that there is a key role that NATO can play. Again, just this morning, the President spoke, as you know, to the Emir of Qatar, who has offered to contribute and of course we believe that’s critically important to the effort to have that kind of Arab participation, which obviously goes beyond NATO as well,” he said.
“What we’re focused on right now is figuring out what the different contributions are going to be of different nations and then what the structure is going to be in place that can facilitate those contributions,” Mr. Rhodes said.