Anonymous sources reported in the Norwegian press claim that Norwegian fighter jets have been involved in bombing missions that have targeted the home of Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi, although the country’s aircraft were apparently not involved in the incident in which Gadafhi’s son was killed. At the same time, it was revealed that one of Norway’s governing parties would debate its continuing support for the NATO mission.
Sources that are allegedly connected to the Norwegian defense department appeared to confirm that the country’s personnel and aircraft were involved in the attack on Easter Monday. The defense ministry has previously refused to confirm or deny involvement in any individual missions, while American sources announced that Norway had been centrally involved.
‘Did not kill’ Gadhafi’s son
The same sources deny Norwegian involvement in the mission that killed Saif al-Arab Gadhafi, the Libyan leader’s son, and several others on the weekend. The source’s leak confirms that Norway has been a part of attacks that have been criticized by Libyan authorities and others for being outside of NATO’s UN-backed mandate.
Defense minister Grete Faremo, a representative of the Labour Party, has written in newspaper Aftenposten about the nature of the country’s role in the Libyan mission. “Because Norway has demonstrated a good ability to deliver relevant attacks in a precise manner and with the lowest possible risk of unintended damage and civilian casualties, we are among those that have been given responsibilities to take out especially complex targets,” Faremo commented. She confirmed that Norwegian pilots had participated in 275 of the 1,950 “strike” missions carried out by NATO in total, dropping 247 bombs in the process.
The Guardian, a British newspaper, claimed that Danish forces had been responsible for the bombing of Gadhafi’s son’s buildings. The Danish defense ministry has throughout the conflict published the details of its missions, and confirmed that it had been involved in attacks in the area at that time.
‘Influence’ in NATO
There are apparently mixed feelings among the Norwegian air defense community on the country’s relatively high involvement in the Libya missions, ranging from pride to concern, with a strong awareness of the political consequences of the military engagements to the Norwegian government.
Aftenposten has been told that the Norwegian military’s high regard at NATO comes from their pilots’ abilities and the fact that they have on several occasions argued against parts of mission plans. Defense minister Faremo suggested that this meant that “in this process, we have real national influence.” She added that the “tight and good dialogue” between NATO members “is demonstrated by the changing of targets on certain occasions.” NATO apparently prefers that fighter jets involved in combat do not bear a particular country’s signature, as the countries themselves are not involved in the military alliance’s choice of mission. Aircraft are launched from Crete after decisions taken by the command headquarters in Naples, Italy.
Socialists’ support falters
Within Norway, the debate on the Libya mission has continued to rage within the Socialist Left Party, which is part of the country’s Red-Green coalition government. A number of party activists, including its youth-wing Socialist Youth, want the party to withdraw its support for the action. The debate within the party had seemed to die down after the initial decision on Norwegian involvement was taken, but a national committee meeting on the weekend will likely see further internal clashes on the issue. The committee originally decided to support a mission that protected civilians without forcing regime change.
A proposal from party members in Hordaland says that the national committee should resolve that it “can not any longer see that the UN resolution’s objectives are being fulfilled,” meaning that “Norway should therefore no longer take part in the conflict.” Instead, the members from Hordaland would prefer the country to focus on politically-negotiated solutions and humanitarian assistance.
Polls of Norwegians taken before the most recent high profile missions suggested broad, cross-party support for the country’s involvement.