Reuters reports that some NATO countries participating in the Libya operation have punched themselves out, although Khadaffy is still standing. "New U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that some NATO allies operating in Libya could see their forces 'exhausted' within 90 days." European forces are wearing out from the beating they are delivering to the Libyan dictator.
"The problem right now, frankly, in Libya is that ... within the next 90 days a lot of these other countries could be exhausted in terms of their capabilities, and so the United States, you know, is going to be looked at to help fill the gap," Panetta said, speaking to troops in Baghdad.
AFP added that the Italians are pulling out their carrier and Norway is pulling out its planes. The Italians have called for a "political solution" in Libya. France is reported to be secretly negotiating with Khadaffy for a settlement, according to Saif Khadaffy, who says talks have been ongoing between a Libyan envoy and the French President. The reality is that Europe's combat power will soon have to be cut back in Libya unless the US takes up the slack.
Among the European countries involved in Libya, Norway has announced it will withdraw its six F-16 fighters on August 1, and Italy is pulling out its Garibaldi aircraft carrier, for a saving of 80 million euros.
Panetta said that Nato's European members must "make efforts to develop their defence capability; they're gonna have to invest in that kind of partnership as well.
"We can't be the ones that carry the financial burden in all of these situations," Panetta said.
Washington bears 75 per cent of Nato's defence budget. Of the 28 Nato countries, only the United States, France, Britain, Greece and Albania meet the Nato threshold of two percent of GDP spent on defence.
The problem facing President Obama is that, by his own account, there isn't even a war on in Libya, or nothing that amounts to one. It will be hard to make the case that he needs to come to the assistance of allies in military need, if that need has by defined into nonexistence by none other than himself.
If France and Italy have negotiate a settlement that leaves Khadaffy in power they will have provided a textbook example of international rope-a-dope, one convincingly demonstrates the limitations of feeble muscles allied to soft-power. It will be the perfect companion to the emerging debacle to financially save Greece. Europe has punched itself out fighting a non-war against a 5th rate country in North Africa. Far from covering themselves in glory enhancing the prestige of the old continent they will have succeeded in making themselves nothing but a laughing stock. The only problem is that there will probably be serious consequences.