Edited and links added by Alexandra Valiente
Contrary to appearances, NATO learns from experience. The Atlantic Organization “always draws the lessons from its operations, and we’re already doing that with Libya,” observed Adm. James G. Stavridis, supreme NATO commander in Europe.
To this end NATO has endowed itself with the appropriate tool, the Joint Analysis & Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC): a sort of school where “lessons learned” are taught. Thus, NATO can permanently learn how better to make war. At the beginning of the campaign against Libya in March 2011, the JALLC sent a team of analysts to monitor the operations from the allied command center in Naples. The “lessons learned” were outlined in a confidential report presented last February. The New York Times has now obtained a copy.
What should the allies, in particular the European ones, have learned? That the war against Libya was not a model operation as pretended, but revealed serious shortcomings. First and foremost, the fact that the European allies and Canada have had to rely disproportionately on the United States. Even with U.S. aid, NATO possessed only 40% of the electronic warfare aircraft which would have been necessary for that operation. And it was the U.S. that supplied its partners with the near-totality of the most advanced precision target ammunition: 7,700 bombs and missiles were used in the attack against Libya (much of which was probably provided by the U.S. military base at Camp Darby near Pisa, Italy).
The need to remedy these shortcomings is being urgently addressed. “President Obama has requested that the Pentagon begin preparing preliminary military options in Syria.” However, “an operation in Syria would pose a bigger challenge than the seven-month campaign that drove Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya from power.” In fact, Syria’s armed forces and air defense systems are more efficient and more difficult to destroy through airstrikes. Moreover, the Syrian opposition is more dispersed and disjointed than the one in Libya during the war, “making allied efforts to coordinate with the rebels more difficult.” Accordingly, to attack Syria, the European allies and Canada would have to “rely heavily on U.S. capabilities.”
In anticipation of this and other wars (Iran is also in the crosshairs), Canada and the members of the Alliance are trying to step up the pace to optimize their own military capabilities. It is against this background that last February an agreement was reached to create in Sigonella (Sicily) the AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance) which, together with the Global Hawk drones installed on this base, will provide NATO with a detailed chart of the territories to be attacked, allowing also the strike of moving vehicles. Immediately after, in March, European defense ministers agreed on an “ambitious proposal” which addresses another shortcoming: the lack of planes for the in-flight supply of the fighter-bombers, which during the Libyan war were made available in large part by the United States.
Congratulations, you have learned the lesson—say the JALLC teachers—but now you must get even more involved: “Buying expensive aircraft and technical equipment, could take years to put in place.” That is the lesson learned from the war in Libya. Students who successfully pass the test go on to the next war.