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Wednesday, April 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

As U.S. pulls back, Gadhafi forces still standing

LONDON — NATO has acknowledged that Libya's military and security forces remain intact.


The NATO assessment was released as the United States withdrew its combat air fleet from the Libyan no-fly zone. Officials said U.S. combat aircraft stopped flying over Libya on April 4 in a move that also suspended cruise missile attacks. U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles still remain outside the NATO command.

Officials said NATO has assessed that forces loyal to Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi have concealed platforms and other military assets from Western combat air missions. They said Gadhafi's military and security forces were employing light vehicles and weapons — which have escaped NATO air reconnaissance — against the besieged rebel movement.

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"They are using more and more trucks and light vehicles and they are keeping more heavy equipment like armored vehicles [concealed]," NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm said. "We are trying to identify where those heavy assets, such as tanks and armored vehicles, are, because they are hiding in urban areas."

In a briefing in Brussels on April 5, van Uhm acknowledged that Gadhafi's tactics, which included waves of attacks, have frustrated the NATO no-fly zone mission. The brigadier said the lion's share of NATO combat air sorties return from Libya without having fired toward targets.

On April 4, 14 out of 150 air sorties over Libya fired toward regime targets, van Uhm said. In the first six days of NATO command, the alliance reported 851 sorties.

"The operational tempo remains, but we have seen a change of [Gadhafi] tactics," van Uhm said. "When human beings are used as shields we don't engage and then they [NATO aircraft] come back with the ammunition."

In all, van Uhm said, NATO has assessed that about 30 percent of Gadhafi's military forces was destroyed. The biggest loss was that of the combat air fleet of the Libyan Air Force.

"The assessment is that we have taken out 30 percent of the military capacity of the pro-Gadhafi forces," van Uhm, who did not elaborate, said.

Officials said NATO, which took over operations from the United States on March 31, assessed that Gadhafi was concealing heavy weapons in urban areas, particularly Misrata and Tripoli. They said bad weather has also restricted reconnaissance operations that might detect suspected arms warehouses.

"We have confirmation that in Misrata tanks are being dispersed, being hidden, human beings used as shields in order to prevent NATO sorties to identify targets," van Uhm said. "We are closely monitoring where they are."

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