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As NATO Runs Short on Munitions, Libyan Rebels Get Weapons of Their Own

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Joseph Federico loads a Hellfire missile on an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter in support of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

Witness the strange little war in Libya, where NATO is running out of weapons but the rebels are not.

NATO apparently is running out of precision bombs for use in their air campaign, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in NATO. We’re what, a month into this operation?

The shortage of European munitions, along with the limited number of aircraft available, has raised doubts among some officials about whether the United States can continue to avoid returning to the air campaign if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi hangs on to power for several more months.

U.S. strike aircraft that participated in the early stage of the operation, before the United States relinquished command to NATO and assumed what President Obama called a “supporting” role, have remained in the theater “on 12-hour standby” with crews “constantly briefed on the current situation,” a NATO official said.

So far, the NATO commander has not requested their deployment. Several U.S. military officials said they anticipated being called back into the fight, although a senior administration official said he expected other countries to announce “in the next few days” that they would contribute aircraft equipped with the laser-guided munitions.

This is less a shortage than a resistance on the part of other member countries, particularly Germany, to contribute. The US has been the world policeman for so long, that it’s jarring when they try to get other countries to shoulder the load. But I suspect that we’ll be out of our supporting role soon enough. Especially with Human Rights Watch confirming the use of cluster bombs by Gadhafi’s forces in the shelling of Misurata, which really is despicable.

But while NATO supplies are running low, rebel supplies have suddenly been bolstered from abroad:

Libyan rebels say they have begun receiving arms shipments from abroad, although there has been no independent confirmation of that.

The rebel military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, on Saturday said in an interview with Al Arabiya, a satellite news channel, that his forces had received weapons supplies from unidentified nations that support their uprising.

A spokesman for the rebels’ National Transitional Council, Mustafa Gheriani, confirmed General Younes’s statement but also refused to provide details.

So much for that great debate on whether or not to arm the rebels. The Qataris have already pledged weapons, so that could be what this is about. Or, it could be some other mysterious benefactor. Maybe that executive order for covert support kicked in without anyone knowing about it.

Anyway, once the folks on the ground and the air get their full of weapons, I’m sure this will all be straightened out within 8-11 years or so.

CommunityThe Bullpen

As NATO Runs Short on Munitions, Libyan Rebels Get Weapons of Their Own

Witness the strange little war in Libya, where NATO is running out of weapons but the rebels are not.

NATO apparently is running out of precision bombs for use in their air campaign, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in NATO. We’re what, a month into this operation?

The shortage of European munitions, along with the limited number of aircraft available, has raised doubts among some officials about whether the United States can continue to avoid returning to the air campaign if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi hangs on to power for several more months.

U.S. strike aircraft that participated in the early stage of the operation, before the United States relinquished command to NATO and assumed what President Obama called a “supporting” role, have remained in the theater “on 12-hour standby” with crews “constantly briefed on the current situation,” a NATO official said.

So far, the NATO commander has not requested their deployment. Several U.S. military officials said they anticipated being called back into the fight, although a senior administration official said he expected other countries to announce “in the next few days” that they would contribute aircraft equipped with the laser-guided munitions.

This is less a shortage than a resistance on the part of other member countries, particularly Germany, to contribute. The US has been the world policeman for so long, that it’s jarring when they try to get other countries to shoulder the load. But I suspect that we’ll be out of our supporting role soon enough. Especially with Human Rights Watch confirming the use of cluster bombs by Gadhafi’s forces in the shelling of Misurata, which really is despicable.

But while NATO supplies are running low, rebel supplies have suddenly been bolstered from abroad:

Libyan rebels say they have begun receiving arms shipments from abroad, although there has been no independent confirmation of that.

The rebel military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, on Saturday said in an interview with Al Arabiya, a satellite news channel, that his forces had received weapons supplies from unidentified nations that support their uprising.

A spokesman for the rebels’ National Transitional Council, Mustafa Gheriani, confirmed General Younes’s statement but also refused to provide details.

So much for that great debate on whether or not to arm the rebels. The Qataris have already pledged weapons, so that could be what this is about. Or, it could be some other mysterious benefactor. Maybe that executive order for covert support kicked in without anyone knowing about it.

Anyway, once the folks on the ground and the air get their full of weapons, I’m sure this will all be straightened out within 8-11 years or so.

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David Dayen