Libya mission has cost Canada CA$26 million; could rise to CA$60 million

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Canada’s participation in military operations in Libya has cost CA$26 million so far, but this could increase to CA$60 million if the mission is extended to September, Defence Minister Defence Minister Peter MacKay said during a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday.

MacKay said the CA$26 million went to cover aircraft fuel as well as more than 300 laser-guided bombs Canadian pilots have dropped on Libya between March 19 and June 2, CBC news reports. Canada has deployed six CF-18s to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya and also sent a frigate to the Mediterranean Sea.
“Together with our international allies, we have steadily and systematically reduced the ability of the Gaddafi regime to threaten his own population with violence,” he told a news conference on Thursday as NATO aircraft bombed the Libyan capital Tripoli.

MacKay said that next week the Canadian Parliament will be asked to on whether to extend the mission until the end of September, which would push the total cost of the deployment to roughly CA$60 million.
“Right now, we’re looking to extend this mission to mirror the NATO effort and ensure that Canada continues to contribute in a meaningful way, which we are,” MacKay said.

NATO aircraft have flown close to 10 000 flights over Libya, more than 3 500 of which have been strike missions against targets belonging to the Gaddafi regime. However, the conflict shows little sign of ending.

A release from MacKay’s office stated that the Canadian Forces have 650 personnel taking part in the Libya mission, Operation Mobile. Canadian fighter aircraft have flown over 1 750 hours, maritime patrol aircraft have flown over 530 hours and HMCS Charlottetown, with a Sea King aboard, continues to patrol the central Mediterranean Sea.

On Wednesday NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen prompted allies to increase their participation in the supporting the four-month old rebel uprising. He wants more countries to share the costs and risks of the campaign. However, despite calls from the United States and United Kingdom, no other nations have joined in the mission.

The cost of Canada’s participation is paltry in comparison to that of the Untied States. A memo leaked to the Financial Times suggested US operations in Libya had cost US$664 million by mid-May, putting it on course to exceed the US$750 million that Gates last month projected would be spent this year.

Meanwhile, rebels struggling against Gaddafi’s fighters were promised more than US$1.1 billion in aid on Thursday by Western and Arab powers convened in Abu Dhabi — though the donors also demanded details on how a post-Gaddafi government might work.

Russia, which has voiced misgivings over the use of foreign military force and has extensive commercial interests in Libya, wants to mediate reconciliation between Tripoli and the rebels.

Despite the new aid pledges from France, Italy and Turkey, rebels voiced frustration at the pace of the intervention. “Our people are dying… So my message to our friends is that I hope they walk the walk,” rebel Oil and Finance Minister Ali Tarhouni said.

Rebels hosted the first foreign leader at their Benghazi stronghold on Thursday — Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who offered to ease Gaddafi, his former African Union ally, from power. “It is in your own interest … that you leave power in Libya and never dream of coming back,” said Wade.

Citing shortcomings in Libya and in Afghanistan, another NATO theatre of war, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday that the alliance risked becoming irrelevant soon if European partners did not boost their military spending and commitment.

Rear Admiral Philippe Coindreau, who heads French operations over Libya, said that the strikes against Gaddafi’s forces were increasingly wearing them down and that helicopters would “accelerate” this attrition.

The alliance says the bombing aims to protect civilians from the Libyan military, which crushed popular protests in February.

Gaddafi troops and rebels have been deadlocked for weeks between the eastern towns of Ajdabiyah and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega. Rebels also control the western city of Misrata and the range of Western Mountains near the Tunisia border.

The rebels, who rose up against Gaddafi five months ago as political upheaval coursed through the Arab world, lack military hardware and order but enjoy widespread sympathy abroad.

Gaddafi’s alleged excesses have helped. At the United Nations, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said this week its investigators had found evidence linking Gaddafi to a policy of raping opponents, including issuing of Viagra-like drugs to troops to encourage mass rapes.

The Libyan leader says the rebels are Islamist militants and foreign intervention is a front for a grab at the country’s oil. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appearing at the Abu Dhabi meeting of the 22-nation Libya contact group, said talks were under way with people close to Gaddafi that had raised the “potential” for a transition of power.



She did not elaborate on the discussions but said: “There is not any clear way forward yet.”