Dr Liam Fox MP (Secretary of State for Defence) and General Sir David Richards (Chief of the Defence Staff) have met with their US counterparts in Washington, Robert Gates (Defense Secretary) and Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to discuss operations in Afghanistan and Libya.
High on the agenda will be the situation in Libya in which the stance of the UK will basically be…
After the meeting concluded Liam Fox issued the following statement
I would first like to thank Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for hosting General Richards and myself here at the Pentagon.
Today, as throughout much of our shared history, the UK and US stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan, the Gulf, fighting piracy and, now, in Libya.
We had a wide range of discussions including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developments in the Middle East, and the evolving situation in Libya.
On Afghanistan, we discussed the way ahead for the transition process and the challenges ISAF and our Afghan partners will face heading into the summer months.
On the Middle East, we had very constructive discussions on the challenges presented by the current situation in the region. With Syria in particular we are both deeply concerned by the recent reports of security forces killing demonstrators. The Syrian government must start addressing the legitimate political demands of its people.
On Libya, we had good discussions on how to better exploit emerging opportunities on the ground. I’m extremely grateful to the US for their recent contribution of armed Predator UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] which will give NATO and our Arab allies greater capability to take out [Gaddafi] regime forces that continue to threaten the civilian population.
There is little doubt across the alliance that this key contribution has proven to be of immense value protecting civilians in Misurata and has helped Opposition forces to defend themselves against this brutal regime there. This is further strengthened by Italy’s recent announcement of additional air to ground attack capability.
We have seen significant progress made in the last 72 hours with Gaddafi’s forces losing their grip on Misurata and we have received reports of under-age soldiers and foreign mercenaries being captured — this underlines the regimes inability to rely on its own security forces. These are the tactics of an increasingly desperate and weak regime.
Dr Liam Fox MP
Afghanistan will of course be discussed as well but no doubt a re run of the Great Escape is not going to be shown as light after dinner relaxation
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has also been busy this week warning the Cabinet to prepare for the long haul in Libya.
“The mission is going in the right direction but we need to prepare for the long haul. Naturally we want to see a rapid conclusion, however, we have to be prepared for whatever it takes in order to enforce UNSCR 1973”
Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman
In a statement to Parliament William Hague said;
Britain has continued to take a leading role in international efforts to protect civilians in Libya and the case for action remains compelling: Qadhafi’s regime persists in attacking its own people, wilfully killing its own civilian population.
Our strategy is to intensify the diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Qadhafi’s regime and since the House last met we have made progress on all those fronts.
On the diplomatic front, I co-chaired the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Doha on 13 April. The 21 states and seven international organisations represented demonstrated clear unity with participation from across the Arab world and the African Union in attendance. The Group agreed that Qadhafi’s regime had lost all legitimacy, that the National Transitional Council should be offered further support and that the UN Special Envoy should take forward an inclusive political process. I will attend the next Contact Group meeting in Rome on 5 May.
At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin on 14 and 15 April, I joined colleagues in showing our determination to increase the pace of military operations to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The 28 NATO Member States and 6 Arab countries that attended, 16 of which out of the 34 are engaged in military action, agreed a common strategy. That is an important milestone in world affairs, a sign of a growing ability to work across traditional regional divisions and a demonstration of the breadth and unity in the international coalition in support of the Libyan people.
On the economic front, since my statement on 4 April, further Libyan entities have been sanctioned and the regime is now subject to some of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever agreed by the United Nations.
On military matters, since NATO assumed full control over all military operations on 31 March, more than 3500 sorties and 1500 strike sorties have been conducted. This action has seriously degraded Qadhafi’s military assets and prevented widespread massacres planned by Qadhafi’s forces: they remain unable to enter Benghazi and it is highly likely that without these efforts Misrata would have fallen, with terrible consequences for that city’s brave inhabitants.
Yesterday Italy announced that its aircraft would take part in ground strikes and the United States Government has contributed Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to the coalition forces. My Right Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is in Washington today to discuss the military situation.
Heavy fighting continues around the towns of Brega, Ajdabiya, Yefren and Misrata. The regime’s indiscriminate shelling of residential areas in Misrata shows that it continues to target the civilian population.
Qadhafi has shown that he has no regard for civilian lives. The ICC prosecutor has said that there is evidence of a case against Qadhafi for crimes against humanity. We look forward to the prosecutor’s report to the UN on 4 May.
By his actions it is clear that Qadhafi has no intention of observing the conditions in UNSCR 1973 that I described to the House earlier this month. He has repeatedly ignored the ceasefires that he himself has announced.
Our military action is defined by the UN Security Council Resolutions. We are also clear that Qadhafi should go, and it is impossible to see a viable or peaceful way forward for Libya until he does so.
The Libya Contact Group’s statement made clear that, in contrast to Qadhafi, we and our allies regard the National Transitional Council as a legitimate interlocutor, representing the aspirations of the Libyan people. Our diplomatic mission in Benghazi is working with it. Our Special Envoy, Christopher Prentice, will shortly be succeeded by John Jenkins, currently Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Baghdad.
Last week I announced our decision to expand this mission with a small advisory team of British military officers. Their sole purpose is to support the NTC’s efforts better to protect civilians by advising on military organisational structures, communications and logistics. They are not involved in training or arming the opposition’s forces, nor are they executing or providing operational military advice.
This is fully in line with the UN Resolutions and I reiterate to the House that we will remain wholly in accordance with the UN Resolutions, retaining the moral, legal and international authority that flows from that.
We have supplied vital, non-lethal equipment to assist the NTC in protecting civilian lives. So far this consists of telecommunications equipment and body armour. We are considering with our international partners further requests.
In the coming week, we hope to agree internationally the process for establishing a Temporary Financial Mechanism to provide a transparent structure for international financial support for the financial requirements of the NTC such as public sector pay. Yesterday Kuwait announced around 110 million pounds’ worth of support for the NTC.
I am sure the House will join me in paying tribute to the skill, bravery and professionalism of the men and women of the UK’s and allies’ armed forces. Their actions in the NATO operations have already saved many lives and their efforts are essential to bringing a lasting peace and a better future for the Libyan people who have suffered so much at the hands of this brutal regime. And I also pay tribute to the brave humanitarian workers who put their lives at risk.
The UK is also supporting the other needs of the Libyan people in every way we can. The humanitarian situation in the West of the country is getting worse every day. Many civilians in Misrata lack access to basic necessities, including food, water and electricity. There is a shortage of some crucial medical supplies.
That is why my Rt Hon. Friend the International Development Secretary announced last week that the UK will provide medical and other emergency supplies and undertake evacuations for 5000 migrants stranded at Misrata port in squalid conditions. The UK has so far given over £13 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs, providing funding for medical and food supplies, emergency shelter, and assistance for evacuating poor and vulnerable migrants. In Misrata alone, British support has given 10,000 people food, 2000 families water and hygiene kits and provided essential medical staff. But the regime must guarantee unfettered humanitarian access, not just broken promises which then put the lives of aid workers and volunteers at risk.
The wave of demand for change in the Arab World continues to gain momentum in other nations. As I said earlier today we condemn utterly the violence and killings perpetrated by the Syrian security forces against civilians who are expressing their views in peaceful protests. This violent repression must stop. President Assad should order his authorities to show restraint and to respond to the legitimate demands of his people with immediate and genuine reform, not with brutal repression. The Emergency Law should be lifted in practice and the legitimate aspirations of the people met.
The United Kingdom is working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and respect basic and universal human rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.
Syria is now at a fork in the road. Its Government can still choose to bring about the radical reform which alone can provide peace and stability in Syria and for the long term, and we urge it do so. Or it can choose ever more violent repression, which can only bring short term security for the authorities there. If it does so we will work with our European partners and others to take measures, including sanctions, that will have an impact on the regime.
Given our concerns for British Nationals in Syria we changed our Travel Advice on Sunday to advise against all travel there and to advise that British Nationals should leave unless there is a pressing need for them to remain.
In Yemen, the United Kingdom welcomes the news this morning that the efforts of the Gulf Co-operation Council countries to resolve the current political deadlock are close to success. I understand that President Saleh and the parliamentary opposition have accepted the GCC’s proposal. This is potentially good news.
Both sides now need to come together to confirm their commitment to the peaceful, inclusive and timely transition process that the GCC has brokered. The UK remains committed to our long-standing support for Yemen in these difficult times.
Although the immediate situation in Bahrain is calmer, there continue to be credible reports of human rights abuses. I urge the Government of Bahrain to meet all its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, equal access to justice and the rule of law. Dialogue is the way to fulfil the aspirations of all Bahrainis. And I urge all sides, including opposition groupings, to engage with each other.
In Egypt, which I will visit shortly, we welcome the actions being taken by the authorities to move towards a broad-based, civilian-led government and an open, democratic society.
In Tunisia, with EU partners we are providing support to help the government in Tunisia meet the wishes of the Tunisian people. On 11 April, the Commission responsible for bringing together opposition parties and civil society approved the draft law for the Constituent Assembly elections scheduled for 24 July. This is a step further towards free and fair elections and an open, democratic society.
The European Union has a crucial role to play in the southern Mediterranean. The great changes in the Arab world are truly historic and the response from the nations of the European Union should be bold and ambitious.
The review of the European Neighbourhood Policy is due to be published in a fortnight. We have been making the case that we have the opportunity to use that Policy to help the peoples of the Southern Mediterranean achieve their desire for freer and more prosperous societies. A renewed Neighbourhood Policy should see the EU using its economic magnetism to encourage and support political and economic reform in neighbouring countries. A partnership of equals should reward those who make the necessary political and economic reforms, and – importantly – withdraw benefits from those who do not.
Finally, it remains essential that progress is made in the search for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is what the majority of Palestinians and Israelis demand of their leaders. The extraordinary changes in the region are an opportunity to be seized, not an excuse for further prevarication leading to more frustration and discontent.
Mr Speaker, in our response to the dramatic events in North Africa and the Middle East we will continue to stand for reform not repression, for the addressing of grievances rather than brutal reprisals. It is a policy in accordance with our own beliefs, in line with our own national interest, and in pursuit of the peace and prosperity of the wider world.
William Hague MP
The fact is, we have entered into operations in Libya without a clear end state in mind and even if there was a hopey changey message desired end state there certainly wasn’t any meaningful means to get to a vague ends. Instead, we have lurched from one slight escalation to the next; no fly zones, attacking Qadaffi loyalist ground forces, supplying non combat supplies and now a limited number on non combat military advisers.
Liam Fox has been openly talking up targeting Qadaffi in a not targeting Qadaffi kind of way, we will be attacking his house but he is not the target, however, if he is in that house, sucks to be him!
The full transcript of the interview is here
Whichever way you look at it, you can’t help admiring the bravery and resourcefulness of these rebel fighters, very few of whom are self evidently professionals.
The poorly equipped rebels seem to be holding out in Misrata and making some gains, the Predators being flow by US forces will allow the reaction time between target identification, authorisation and strike to be compressed. Their key attribute is persistence, land based fighters simply cannot hold over the area for long enough to maintain this constant reactive overwatch. Even carrier based fighters would struggle to maintain this persistence.
Of course, ours are all in Afghanistan and lets not forget they are a UOR so might not be available post Afghanistan anyway, never fear though, we are thinking about developing something with the French.
Following this incremental escalation strategy, David Cameron indicated in a letter to Bill Cash MP that the UK would consider directly arming rebel forces.
“We do not rule out supplying lethal equipment, but we have not taken a decision to do so and there remain legal and practical questions which need to be carefully considered.”
This would of course be in direct contravention on UN1973 so there have been calls for another resolution.
The one word that is strictly verboten is ‘stalemate’
Where is the much vaunted Arab involvement by the way, sending a few million is not ‘full engagement’ and only Qatar is actually flying missions. The others have sent words but not much else.
Exercise Cougar 11
HMS Ocean has also sailed today for Operation Cougar 11 training exercise in the Mediterranean, joining HMS Albion, HMS Sutherland, RFA Wave Knight, RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Mounts Bay.
All these vessels will form the Royal Navy’s “very high readiness” Task Group to take part in multi-national amphibious exercises on Operation Cougar 11.
Cougar 11 is been planned for some time but it is a convenient cover for putting a very competent amphibious task group into the area.
The MoD states the HRTG will be ‘poised’ to respond to short notice across a range of defence activities such as evacuation operations, disaster relief, humanitarian aid or amphibious operations.
This is Plymouth state that
HMS Ocean will be carrying a mix of support helicopters, Apache attack helicopters and landing craft, enabling the landing of Royal Marines, their vehicles and equipment.
If things do escalate the force will be in the area, well placed to meet any emerging needs
SDSR and Libya
The shadows Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy MP, has raised the issue of resources.
As the conflict continues we need to be clear, in light of the government’s defence cuts, about the UK military’s ability to sustain high tempo operations. Ministers must guarantee that no resources are moved from the frontline in Afghanistan and ongoing operations do not impede our obligations elsewhere.
Jim Murphy MP
Despite Liam Fox and other members of the cabinet triumphantly declaring that despite the SDSR UK forces were still more than capable of responding to a crisis like Libya, vaunting the declared strategy of ‘adaptable Britain’ being adequate we should have a look behind the rhetoric.
What does SDSR actually say about force generation, duration and scale.
Given that the prevailing mantra seems to be that Libya is going to be a long haul, expect it to be an enduring operation but with only limited land forces.
Where does an enduring air/sea operation leave these assumptions?
With the force levels in 2015 being as they are planned, would we be able to satisfy the requirements of Libya today?
If land forces were committed to some possible future stabilisation or peacekeeping mission in Libya that was enduring in nature where exactly would they come from?