‘NATO can handle Libya without US help’

PTI Washington | Updated on April 20, 2011

The US Vice-President, Mr Joe Biden, said in an interview published today that NATO can handle Libya without US help, saying Washington’s efforts are better focused on places like Pakistan or Egypt.

“If the Lord Almighty extricated the US out of NATO and dropped it on the planet of Mars so we were no longer participating, it is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lack the capacity to deal with Libya — it does not,” Mr Biden told the Financial Times.

“Occasionally other countries lack the will, but this is not about capacity,” he told the daily amid deep unease among the US public and lawmakers over military action in Libya.

His comments came after the US Defence Department said the US military had flown more than 800 sorties over Libya since handing the control of the air campaign’s operations to NATO.

Navy Captain Darryn James said US fighter jets this month unleashed bombs eight times on the air defences of strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s government, which is battling anti-regime rebels in the North African nation.

Washington coordinated operations in the first days of allied intervention in Libya after the United Nations Security Council approved international military action to thwart attacks by Gaddafi forces on rebel-held cities.

It transferred command to the NATO alliance earlier this month, leaving the Pentagon primarily providing refuelling and surveillance aircraft, but it still flexes its military might.

Mr Biden argued that Washington had to decide whether to spend resources “focusing on Iran, Egypt, North Korea, Afghanistan [and] Pakistan”, or give Libya more attention, stressing: “We can’t do it all.”

“The question is: Where should our resources be?” he asked.

If it came down to deciding between getting a complete picture of Libya’s Opposition or understanding events in Egypt and the role the Muslim Brotherhood — an Islamist group feared by some in Washington —then “it’s not even close,” he said.

Published on April 20, 2011

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