NATO has all the resources and assets to successfully complete its operations in Libya, said the military alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“The Libya operation demonstrates that the European allies plus Canada and partners in the region can actually take leading responsibility for the operations,” Rasmussen told journalists after taking part in the meeting of the Adriatic Charter in Montenegro’s coastal town of Budva.
“In the past we were used to having American leadership of all operations. This time the majority of aircraft have been provided by European allies and Canada and countries in the region.”
NATO says it is operating under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as he tries to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule. Gaddafi says NATO’s real aim is to steal the country’s plentiful oil, Reuters reports.
Outgoing U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said a couple of weeks ago that NATO’s European partners were being severely tested by their engagement in Libya. He said many allies were “beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S. once more, to make up the difference.
Rasmussen said European defence expenditure needed to be lifted, although better synergy of existing assets could also pay dividends.
“European defence investments are too small… but the one way forward would be to cooperate more, to share and pull forces to get more efficient use,” he said.
Last week NATO’s chief dismissed a call from Italy for a suspension of hostilities in Libya and tried to reassure wavering members of the Western coalition Gaddafi can be beaten.
Italy’s cease-fire call exposed the strain on the NATO alliance, nearly 14 weeks into a bombing campaign that has so far failed to dislodge Gaddafi but is causing mounting concerns about its financial cost and about civilian casualties.
The Adriatic Charter is a regional association formed by Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia as well as the US in 2003 to aid efforts of Balkan countries to join NATO.