Brussels, Apr 5: The international aerial onslaught against Moammar Gaddhafi's forces has destroyed 30 percent of Libya's military capacity, a senior NATO official said Tuesday.
NATO warplanes have flown 851 sorties in the six days since the alliance took command of all operations from a U.S.-led international force that had been bombing Libya since March 19.
Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm said Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, who commands the Libyan operation from his headquarters in Naples, briefed NATO's governing body on Tuesday.
“(Bouchard's) assessment is that we have taken out 30 percent of the military capacity of the pro-gaddhafi forces,” Van Uhm said.
On Monday, NATO warplanes launched 14 attacks on ground targets in the North African nation, destroying radars, munitions dumps, armored vehicles, and a rocket launcher, he said.
But Van Uhm said pro-gaddhafi forces had changed tactics in recent days in response to the NATO attacks. Libyan forces are now using human shields to prevent more strikes against tanks and other heavy equipment around the coastal city of Misrata, making it impossible for pilots to target them, he said.
Seventy-five percent of strike missions Monday had to return without dropping their bombs or launching their missiles because of this and other factors that made it difficult for pilots to distinguish between civilians and regime troops.
“If they see the target but see humans being used as human shields, they come back,” Van Uhm said.
Van Uhm said Libyan government forces were using trucks and light vehicles now to move their forces to the front line, keeping heavy equipment behind.
“We try to identify where those heavy assets are, because we have seen they have chosen to hide themselves into urban areas to prevent being targeted,” he said.
United States aircraft ended their combat role against Libya on Monday, but U.S. forces continue to provide support, including aerial surveillance, reconnaissance and aerial refueling to NATO allies.
Van Uhm said the U.S. withdrawal had not affected operations on Tuesday.
“The operational tempo has remained the same,” he said.
The U.N. authorized military action to prevent attacks by gaddhafi's forces on Libyan civilians. AP