We need to move forward in Libya and if Kosovo taught us anything that was a mission can be completed quickly and efficently ended... (kill or capture of Ghaddaffi.
Jul 18, 2011 – 9:29 PM ET
By Tobi Cohen
OTTAWA — The NATO mission in Libya has dragged on longer than most had expected and Canada’s top soldier suggests things might be different if the rules of engagement allowed for boots on the ground.
It’s an idea that all involved countries have been adamantly against, but Gen. Walt Natynczyk suggested it can be limiting.
“It’s always about precision and from 20,000 feet, you only get so much precision,” he said in an interview with Postmedia News.
The NATO force, which includes about 650 Canadians, has been able to gather good intelligence with the resources it has, he added, but having people on the ground is “always better.”
That said, the mandate from the United Nations is clear and not unlike the one Canada and other nations operated under in Kosovo.
“Protect civilian lives but you can’t put forces on the ground,” he said.
As such, “collateral damage” is out of the question.
“We’re not pushing the risk factors here because our job is to protect those folks and at the same time trying to stop [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi from shelling civilians,” Natynczyk said.
“The challenge in any of these campaigns is having patience.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Monday that “we will not deploy boots on the ground in Libya.”
“The Harper government’s position is clear,” said Dimitri Soudas in an email to Postmedia News. “Our government’s approach to protecting Libyan civilians has been under the umbrella of the United Nations in close collaboration with our allies.”
The three-month mission began in March and Parliament recently extended it until the end of September. Opposition parties have clearly stated they would not support the use of ground troops and may not be so quick to rubber stamp another extension should one be sought.
Canada has contributed seven CF-18 fighter jets, a CC-150 Polaris refueler, two Hercules tanker aircraft, a pair of CP-140 Aurora Maritime patrol aircraft and a frigate to the effort.
As of last week, NATO had flown more than 14,931 missions in Libya, some 5,623 of which involved airstrikes. Canadian CF-18s were involved in about 523 of them and dropped about 399 laser-guided bombs.
Despite some rebel advances, the Libyan dictator has managed to cling to power in the wake of four months of NATO bombing.