The US and its allies have entered a new stage of involvement in Libya, sending assistance and advisers directly to opposition military forces, which have been unable to break Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's stranglehold over much of the country despite help from Nato airstrikes.
France and Italy said on Wednesday they would join Britain in dispatching military advisers to assist the inexperienced and disorganised rebel army, primarily in tactics and logistics. President Obama authorised sending $25 million worth of nonlethal equipment, including body armour, tents and vehicles.
The assistance appeared to stretch the definition of the "civilian protection" mandate contained in last month's UN resolution authorising foreign intervention in Libya. The allies said their efforts were indirectly achieving that objective, because the rebel force was best-positioned on the ground to protect Libyans from attacks — or the threat of attacks — by Gaddafi loyalists.
The rebel-held western Libyan city of Misrata continued to be the focus of the fighting. Nato said its warplanes struck government targets on the outskirts of the besieged city, as well as around Tripoli, the capital.
"We are dealing with a set of imperfect options," a senior US administration official said, noting that the measure of success is not "where things stand" but "where they would have stood had we done nothing."
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