The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is increasing its air-borne surveillance of Libya’s air space, a top US diplomat to the group today said but noted that a no-fly zone over the North African country would not be of much help in terms of its enforcement.
“The decision was made to indeed increase the surveillance of the NATO-AWACS capability to make it 24/7, to have a better picture of what’s really going on in this part of the world, and it was an agreement that we would look at these issues a little closer over the next few days so that when defence ministers meet on Thursday here in Brussels, they may be in a position to make a decision,” the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, told reporters during a conference call.
So far NATO AWACS has been providing surveillance some 10 hours a day.
“Now we’ll have 24/7, there could be some monitor flags going in and out of the country, which is not unimportant for this purpose,” he said.
“The NATO surveillance planes are really looking for aircraft and ground traffic, both in Libya but also at sea, so that’s what it’s looking for. It really is a way to find out what’s going on in terms of traffic patterns, and it is not looking for individuals,” the US Ambassador asserted.
Responding to questions, Daalder acknowledged the drawbacks in the system to implement the no-fly zone over Libya.
“It’s important to understand that no-fly zones are more effective against fighters, but they really have a limited effect against the helicopters or the kind of ground operations that we’ve seen, which is why a no—fly zone, even if it were to be established, isn’t really going to impact what is happening there today. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at it -- and we are and we will -- but it is not going to be the solution to every problem,” he said.
“We are looking at the no-fly zone in a variety of different options. We haven’t actually had a discussion yet.
The military authorities haven’t finalized that planning. That will happen in the next day or so. We will have a discussion at our level, and then of course, we’ll have a more in-depth discussion when the defence ministers come here,” he said.
The United States, Daalder said, is comfortable at the pace at which Britain and France are moving with regard to no-fly zone.
“I think by towards the end of the week we will be in a position to know what it would take to do a no-fly zone, we would have a pretty good idea what kind of options are available,” he said.