Among others, it took 20, 751 sorties, 5,000 precision strikes and yet-to-be assessed collateral damages before the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries could move towards intstalling rebels in power in Tripoli since they began their operation in Libya on March 19.
With the international contact group on Libya meeting in Paris on September 1, efforts are on to put in place a road map for the North African country as fighting still goes on in Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. The southern town of Sabha too remain as a key bastion of Qaddafi supporters.
Though it’s a daunting challenge to make the rebel military alliance, the National Transitional Council (NTC) into a caretaker government, the western powers say they are have learnt from the mistakes of Iraq. And insist that they will be focusing to ensure the situation doesn't descend into chaos.
They also vow to smash the forces of Qaddafi, though insist that getting the man himself is not their “ultimate aim.” “Now, the Libyan people will decide as to what they want. But we have to ensure the new administration take charge of the water supply, power, health services, and not let the situation to slip into chaos. Then they will be moving to hold elections and of course taking firm charge of the law and order situation”, says a senior British diplomat. Another NATO official add that the fight will be on till “all forces” of the dictator are finished off. As the talks of the transition gathers momentum, he NATO officials here say their role now will be “limited” and to help to “assist” them.
But many officials admit the Libyan operation was also triggered by the “strategic significance” as much as by “humanitarian considerations.”
Libya is located between Tunisia and Egypt— two countries where the Arab spring has brought regime change. Both these countries are also dialogue partners of NATO.
“The repressive regime of Qaddafi and the revolt of the people against him was leaving trail of refugees on our (NATO countries) shores. We had to act”, says a NATO official. At the same time, the moves are also on to nudge the United Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets to let the new leaders to restore essential services. According to reports France wants 1.5 billion euros ($2.2 billion) released by the end of the week.
The Libya meet in Paris is being jointly chaired by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron. It is attended by many world leaders including US secretary of state Hilary Clinton.
(The correspondent was in Brussels at the invitation of the US government).