Britain sends attack helicopters to Libya. Is this mission creep?
The decision to introduce highly precise helicopters that can target Qaddafi fighters ensconced among civilians has heightened concerns about the true aim of the mission in Libya.
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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé was quick to defend against accusations that it was overstepping the outlines of the foreign intervention. He said "the helicopters would not be used to deploy ground forces in Libya and that the decision to send them was fully in line with the UN security council resolution mandating attacks in Libya."Skip to next paragraph
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The decision to approve the use of the helicopters was a controversial one in Britain. France announced that the two countries would be providing attack helicopters before Britain had announced it to the public or received government approval for the move, the Associated Press reports.
The Guardian reported on May 24 that the debate about using the helicopters was the first issue to drive a wedge in Britain's bipartisan support for intervention in Libya and prompted members of parliament to voice other concerns they had kept dormant: that the goal had become regime change, that the choice was between a stalemate and regime change, and that the intervention had already suffered from "mission creep."
British defense officials vowed that the use of helicopters would change little about the mission in Libya.
The armed forces minister [Nick Harvey] said deploying the helicopters would not mark an escalation in the conflict, adding: "I do not accept that, if we were to take a decision at some point to use attack helicopters, that that would be an escalation of what we are doing in Libya."
"The targets would remain the same. It would simply be a tactical shift in what assets we use to try and hit those targets."
Meanwhile, British intelligence officers say that Qaddafi is increasingly paranoid, hiding in hospitals and constantly moving, and that senior officers in his forces are no longer able to communicate with each other.
The US today again rejected Libyans' offer of a cease-fire, saying it was time to "finish the job" – a job that could not be considered complete until the Libyan leader leaves. "We have made progress in Libya but meeting the mandate of civilian protection cannot be completed if Qaddafi remains in Libya," Mr. Obama said on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in France.