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Defence Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 950
Taken before the Defence Committee
on Wednesday 12 October 2011
Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)
Mr Julian Brazier
Mr Mike Hancock
Mr Dai Havard
Mrs Madeleine Moon
Ms Gisela Stuart
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Sir Mark Lyall Grant KCMG, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Cathy Adams, Legal Counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Christian Turner, Director, Middle East and North Africa, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, gave evidence.
Chair: Good morning. Thank you for coming to give evidence in the first of our two evidence sessions on operations in Libya. This session will be divided into two parts: in the first part, we will hear about relations with the United Nations and how those relations affected the operations in Libya; the second part will relate to NATO and the European Union and operations in Libya. Then, on 26 October, we will have the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chiefs of Staff to talk about the British role on operations in Libya.
Welcome to this evidence session. Please introduce yourselves.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I am Mark Lyall Grant, the British Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations.
Christian Turner: I am Christian Turner, Director of Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office.
Cathy Adams: I am Cathy Adams, a legal counsellor in the Foreign Office and formerly a legal adviser of the UK Representation to the United Nations in New York.
Q78 Chair: May I begin by asking about the input that individual countries-individual countries in terms of their Defence Ministries-or that NATO had to the formulation and negotiation of the UN resolutions in the run-up to the drafting of Resolution 1973? What input was there from individual countries or from NATO?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Well, I would say that the input was relatively limited in the early stages, because Resolution 1973, which we passed in March, was the culmination of two previous steps. Once the demonstrations and protests had broken out in Libya, there was obviously international concern about the regime’s response. In response to that, a press statement was agreed by the Security Council on 26 February. Then, when that was ignored by the regime, we escalated the pressure through Resolution 1970, which imposed an arms embargo and sanctions, and it referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. That was a deliberate escalation.
In the context of the discussions and negotiations on 1970, there was discussion about whether it would be necessary to authorise all necessary means to ensure humanitarian access to those who were under threat from the regime, but it was felt that it was not necessary to do it at that stage, and there was quite a lot of opposition to it from other countries on the Security Council at that stage. So we had a very tough sanctions resolution, and it was the first ever unanimous referral to the ICC. We put on the regime the obligation to protect their civilians. That was passed at the end of February.
When the situation deteriorated further, obviously we needed to give consideration to more dramatic action to protect civilians. As a result of a request from the Arab League to impose a no-fly zone, we began to focus on whether it would be possible to authorise and implement one. In the course of those discussions, again we looked at a number of different options for a way of protecting the civilian population in Libya, including the possibility of humanitarian corridors, safe havens, which had been used in some previous theatres in the Middle East, and a more broad-brush authorisation to use all necessary means to protect civilians. It was that last formula that was then employed in Resolution 1973.
In the course of those two weeks of the three different stages-press statement, and Resolutions 1970 and 1973-obviously there was a large amount of co-ordination and discussion within the British Government and between Britain and its allies, including the allies in NATO, about the what the implications were of the various measures put into the resolutions. I would suggest that it was a more informal than formal input, and the dynamics were a response to the situation on the ground and the negotiating dynamics in New York.
Q79 Chair: So there was some military input into whether these resolutions were realistic and achievable?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: There was. In my case, and locally I have a military adviser and obviously he was with me during the negotiations advising on what was feasible and what was not. There was Christian Turner in the team back here in the UK, which was obviously sending us instructions, and they were in touch with the Ministry of Defence and, likewise, with NATO allies. So there was that.
One of the reasons why we did not follow the Arab League recommendation, which was to set up safe havens, was that we did not think that it was militarily possible to do so without having troops on the ground. Likewise, we looked at the possibility of humanitarian corridors to allow humanitarian access, which again had been used in other theatres, but again we decided it could not be done without having forces on the ground. Because the Arab League had said that it did not want foreign forces on the ground, we excluded that. The options we ended up with were specifically designed, with a combination of what was politically realistic and militarily achievable.
Q80 Chair: It has been suggested that the Arab League was not very forthcoming in its overall support for the operations once they had actually begun. When I have put this to certain people involved in the Arab League, they have said that the Arab League asked for action in relation to Libya only because the United Nations had asked the Arab League to ask the United Nations for action. Do you recognise any of that?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: No, I don’t really recognise that. The Arab League issued a number of statements in late February and early March, and made it clear that it was asking the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone and safe havens to protect civilians.
Now, there was a difference between the overall Arab League position and certain Libyan parties. A key event in terms of negotiating the resolutions in New York was the defection of the Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations. He, in a very impassioned plea, called very specifically for the Security Council to take much tougher action, and he was the first to say that we wanted a no-fly zone and had to protect civilians. His was the strongest voice, but that was backed up by the wider Arab League, which then volunteered in its statement that it wanted a no-fly zone and safe havens to protect civilians. It is true that, in the endgame of the negotiations, it also wrote to the President of the Security Council to make that very clear to those members of the Security Council who were hesitant about this step.
Christian Turner: Mr Chairman, I just add that 12 March is the key moment at which the Arab League was calling for that no-fly zone to be implemented and, in terms of the diplomatic co-ordination that Sir Mark describes, that was what led to a strong call for action which the League was supporting. There were different statements following that, including from Amr Moussa, who was secretary-general at the time, but the call in the second week of March was the beginning.
Q81 Chair: This may be an impossible question to answer, but when do you think the provisions of Resolution 1973 will be achieved?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: That is a very difficult question to answer because 1973 contains a series of different provisions. It is a combination of 1970 and 1973. I appreciate that the concentration on military action is in 1973, but in some ways 1973 builds on 1970 and amends it in specific ways.
Resolution 1973 contains a series of political provisions-asset freezes, travel bans, a sanctions committee and panels of experts-so it is difficult to be specific about when it will all be achieved. Very few Security Council resolutions are fully achieved in that sense. If you are referring to the military provisions, which, specifically, are the no-fly zone and the authorisation to protect civilians, that has no specific timeline but is clearly fixed on the condition of trying to protect civilians. So when civilians are no longer threatened, the assumption would be that it would not be necessary for the provisions to remain.
Q82 Chair: How is compliance with the resolutions monitored in terms of not only the regime’s forces, but the coalition forces and the opposition forces?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: A very complicated series of notifications is required under 1973, and in terms of the coalition forces, they are clearly set out in the provisions of 1973. In brief, different notifications are required for taking military action under operational paragraph 4, which is on all necessary means to protect civilians. We had to notify the Secretary-General in advance that we were planning to take action to implement that aspect of the resolution. Likewise, on the no-fly zone, there is a requirement to notify both the Secretary-General and the Arab League about implementation. In addition, once specific action has been taken, either to enforce the arms embargo or to protect civilians, the Secretary-General has to be notified. Obviously, we gave all those notifications. After a while, when NATO took over the command of the coalition operations, NATO started to do those notifications on behalf of the coalition as a whole, but for the first week or so the notifications were done by individual countries in light of the activities they took to implement the resolution.
Q83 Chair: What do you make of the abstentions of five main countries-China, Brazil, Russia, Germany and India? What will the consequences be?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Resolution 1970, which we passed at the end of February, was agreed unanimously, but on 1973, as you say, there were five abstentions. Those five countries were concerned about the wide-sweeping authorisation in 1973, which is one of the most wide-sweeping authorisations of military action that the Security Council has ever enacted. The five countries were concerned that the resolution went too far, which is why they abstained.
Q84 Mr Hancock: What was the issue? Will you elaborate on that? What was their hang up?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: In the course of the negotiations, there was unanimous support for strengthening the assets freeze, the arms embargo and the sanctions, and for setting up the panel of experts, but on the two paragraphs that referred to the no-fly zone and to the protection of civilians, there was quite a lot of debate about how that would be implemented and what the implications and consequences would be.
At the time that we were pushing that resolution, Russia was promoting a separate resolution, which was a simple ceasefire resolution. It wanted a simple resolution, just calling on both sides to have a ceasefire. We felt that the time had gone beyond that. It was quite clear from the language that Gaddafi was using and the action of his troops on the ground that there would be a bloodbath in Benghazi and a massacre of civilians. The language he was using and troop movements meant we needed to take much more rapid action than that. There was a difference of view, however, although those five countries did not feel so strongly against it that they voted against the resolution. Of course, Russia and China in particular could have blocked the resolution if they had wanted to; they did not, because they realised that the political pressure and the fact that the Arab League was calling for the action meant that it would be politically difficult to block it. However, they abstained.
Q85 Mr Brazier: To follow that through one stage further. In the light of subsequent actions and the fact that we took, for very good reasons, that wide-ranging resolution extremely widely, to the edges of its possible interpretation, how do you think that Russia and China, the two veto carriers, lived with our interpretation? What was their reaction?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: There has clearly been some impact in the discussions on the Security Council since then on areas outside Libya, as well as subsequent discussions on Libya.
Q86 Chair: Such as Syria?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: We saw that last week on Syria. It was quite clear that the Russian and Chinese veto of quite a mild resolution in the end on Syria was justified by Russia and China on the grounds that they did not want to start down a road that would end up with military authorisations, as in the case of Libya. So it did have an impact. Certainly, some countries did feel that the resolution had been interpreted in a very wide degree. I do not think those concerns are justified, because during the negotiations on the text it was spelled out clearly to all 15 members of the Security Council what the terms of the resolution meant. It was not just a question of flying over Libya imposing a no-fly zone, and even the imposition of a no-fly zone would require strikes on the ground to take out the air defences. In addition, the protection of civilians specifically meant halting Gaddafi’s columns and, if necessary, ships from attacking Benghazi. That was made very clear in the negotiations. Of course, that is one of the reasons why five countries abstained. It would not be reasonable of them to say afterwards that they were misled or that we had over-interpreted the resolution.
Q87 Mr Havard: I want to cover three general areas. I want to ask you about the resolutions; the business about an exit-whatever that might mean, and when and how it is decided-and something specific about man-portable missiles.
You talked about Resolution 1970, which was incorporated into 1973. That was also partly about an arms embargo. Could you say something about how that is now about to work or continue to work? It may now be found to be legitimate to supply arms-certainly other countries have felt it is-at a time when you are imposing an arms embargo. That is a different particular within a portmanteau resolution. Could you say something about that?
All of that leads us now to Resolution 2009, which is about ongoing activities. Could you explain how these different resolutions and parts are being assessed and decided upon, and the timelines of how they are going to be sequenced together?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Resolution 1970 imposed an arms embargo on all of Libya. The inspection regime of that arms embargo was tightened under 1973, which gave an obligation on member states to inspect and to prevent arms and mercenaries arriving in the country. The implementation of that has been taken up as one of NATO’s tasks. The arms embargo was varied slightly by Resolution 2009, which as you rightly say we passed in September. That gave some exemptions from that arms embargo to allow weapons to be brought into the country for a variety of reasons, whether it was for the UN mission carrying side arms, having close protection for diplomats, or offering security assistance to the legitimate Government; so there has been some variation, but the basic arms embargo remains in force. That does not have any timeline or deadline, but obviously there will come a time when it is considered not to be necessary any more and it will be lifted.
The same goes for the other authorisations. There is no deadline in the resolutions for the authorisation of protecting civilians or for the no-fly zone. In Resolution 2009, it was agreed that we would keep those authorisations under regular review. In the operative paragraph, we said that the Security Council "emphasises its intention to keep the measures…under continuous review and underlines its readiness, as appropriate and when circumstances permit, to lift those measures and to terminate authorization given to Member States in paragraph 4 of resolution 1973". That is something that will be kept under review.
In practice, it will certainly be reviewed in the middle of December, because Resolution 2009 set up an initial mandate period for the UN support mission in Libya-UNSMIL-of three months, and the resolution was passed on 16 September, so we will certainly be reviewing the resolution as a whole by 16 December, and in the course of those discussions, we will consider whether the authorisations are still appropriate.
Q88 Mr Havard: Does all that mean that there may have to be a new portmanteau resolution to reappraise the previous resolutions?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Yes.
Q89 Mr Havard: Can we expect to see something like that just before Christmas?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Yes, there will certainly be another resolution before Christmas, because it will be necessary to do whatever we want to do with the UN mission, but I would expect that, just as Resolution 2009 made some amendments, as I mentioned, to the arms embargo and the assets freeze, when we review this again, we will review all the elements of Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
Q90 Mr Havard: Various politicians from different states are making declarations about the situation taking as long as it takes and so on, and those are the kinds of rhetorical statements that we expect, but what is the practical decision-making process? Who calls time on the various elements? Is it NATO, saying, "We have now discharged that part of the mission, so that is our bit done," or are others, perhaps from your UN organisations, saying, "Well, our bit isn’t done"? How is the decision-making done? In whose hands does it rest? In many statements, people are saying that it will be for the Libyans to decide when it is done, but that is not strictly correct in relation to how the UN and the various allies supporting the missions will make decisions. Can you explain a little more how the decision-making process will happen? Who is in control of what?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: My colleagues will correct me if I am wrong, but in a sense it is true that there are three different decision makers. NATO can, of course, decide that it will no longer implement the resolution as NATO. There is no obligation on it, as such: NATO is not mentioned in the UN Security Council resolutions.
Q91 Mr Havard: But NATO is part of a NATO-plus coalition, which includes Arab countries and others, and broadly it is getting a sanction from your resolutions.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: That is correct, but the authorisation in the resolutions is for member states and organisations as appropriate; it does not mention NATO. Of course, NATO can stop doing what it is doing at any time it so decides. That is one decision point. Secondly, the Security Council could terminate the authorisations. As I mentioned, we will keep the measure under constant review and it will certainly be reviewed in mid-December, if not before, because that is the one timeline that is already included in the resolutions. If the UN terminates those authorisations, the only way that military action could continue to be taken is at the request of the legitimate Government of Libya.
Q92 Mr Havard: So, bilateral relations with Libya.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: And the bilateral relations. So that is where the third decision centre comes into play, where the Libyan Government, even if there is not any UN authorisation, could request support from its allies.
Christian Turner: If I may add to that, Mark, I think the third of those will be key in seeing how the political process goes in the next three months. Obviously, the National Transitional Council are saying that they need to declare what they call liberation, which we expect would be likely to come after the fall of Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.
Q93 Mr Havard: Do you have any information about the sort of shape of the British involvement, whether bilateral or through NATO, in terms of the ongoing mission activities-for example, providing the security you talked about and helping to train and do all the other things that are not active military intervention in the sense of firing guns?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I think, to be honest, Mr Havard, that is probably more for MoD colleagues, but I do not know whether Christian wants to add anything.
Christian Turner: No, I come back to the point that we will need to see what the Transitional National Government of Libya request of us. That will be in the framework of the UN-led process led by UNSMIL. They have asked for a post-conflict stabilisation assessment. Seven areas were itemised at the Paris conference. I think that will lead to certain specific requests-for example, the security lead is with Europe-and we will have to see where the UK effort fits in with that. Ultimately, that would have to be led by what the transitional Government ask us for.
Q94 Mr Havard: There has been a lot of concern about man-portable missiles, as they are called. The Defence Secretary made a statement on Monday at questions here when asked about this. He said, "a small team of UK military specialists to work alongside the Libyans and the United States in preventing surface-to-air missile proliferation" is now taking place. Do you have any more information that you could give us about what is happening with this? That is the sort of thing that cuts across your arms embargo activity within this portmanteau resolution, isn’t it?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Yes. Again, there is a limited amount I can say about that from the UN perspective, but we recognised in the most recent resolution, 2009, that there was a deep concern about proliferation of weapons, including MANPADS. Now action is being taken to address that, but Christian is probably better placed to answer.
Christian Turner: Yes, there was a specific Libyan request for help on this. Obviously, it is a priority concern. Many of these weapons are old and difficult to handle. They need to be located and then dismantled. We assisted by putting in four experts to work alongside the Libyans and, also, with some US experts. That will hopefully provide the immediate location and demobilisation of those weapons. Over the longer term, I expect that to become part of a UN-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, as part of the broad post-conflict settlement.
Q95 Mr Havard: I remember talking to General Dostum about that, but that is a different matter. There were other things. There are possible mass destruction things, things that were secured in a similar way-whether they be nuclear, biological or other things-and not just these missiles. Is a similar approach being taken to those in helping to resolve such security issues for the future? Is that being done in a similar way?
Christian Turner: That is correct-a particular concern about the chemical weapons stocks. Our liaison teams on the ground are working very closely with the National Transitional Council, as it now is, to make sure that we are providing what expertise and assistance we can to ensure that they are secured and kept safe.
Q96 Mr Havard: And all of these things are in the review in December?
Christian Turner: Not formally part of that review, I don’t think, because that is part of our ongoing assistance effort as part of the advisory team we have had working on the military side for some time-from the middle of April, I think. That has been an important part of our dialogue. So, if the Libyans say that they need our ongoing assistance with that, I think we would carry on providing it.
Q97 Mr Havard: So this might be one of a series of bilateral relations that you would do-
Christian Turner: Exactly. Irrespective of what-
Mr Havard: Maybe with the US or the French, or different combinations in any given time?
Christian Turner: That is correct.
Q98 Mr Hancock: May I ask you, ambassador, about the monitoring of resolutions by the Security Council? You raised in your answer to the first question from the Chairman the unanimous decision to refer matters relating to the people in Libya to the International Criminal Court. How has that been implemented and who is monitoring how that will materialise? In particular, there is the case of Musa Kusa, who was in the United Kingdom, is alleged to have been involved in some of the most horrendous crimes in Libya and yet was allowed to leave the United Kingdom. We did not refer him to the Court. Why was that?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: The Security Council did not refer specific individuals to the Court. It referred the situation as a whole to the Court and asked the ICC prosecutor to report to the Security Council within two months on his examination. He did that two months after the passage of Resolution 1970, and he said that he thought there was a case to answer for three Libyans: Gaddafi himself, his son Saif al-Islam and the head of intelligence, Mr Senussi. Those three were therefore passed to the International Criminal Court for indictment, so there are obviously warrants out for them. Those are the only three Libyans who have been cited by the chief prosecutor of the Court. In terms of monitoring that, clearly all member states who are state parties to the ICC are required to co-operate with the Court. I think all states are required to co-operate with the Court. I am looking at my expert here.
Cathy Adams: Libya is obliged to co-operate with the Court.
Q99 Mr Hancock: Sorry, all?
Cathy Adams: Libya itself is obliged to co-operate. Other states who were not parties to the statute are urged to co-operate.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Only 110 countries out of 193 are state parties, not including the United States who are not party to the ICC. Clearly, as and when there is evidence that one of these three individuals may be going to a country, then we and other concerned countries will be encouraging them to arrest them and hand them over to the International Criminal Court. So, that is one strand of activity.
In terms of monitoring other parts of the resolutions, a sanctions committee was established which is made up of 15 members of the Security Council and is chaired by the Portuguese ambassador. All notifications for implementation-requests for exemptions from the assets freeze, for instance-have to go through that committee, which meets regularly and decides whether particular requests are legitimate in the terms of the resolutions.
Q100 Ms Stuart: Looking ahead a little from the operations in Libya and the resolution which we acquired, I see that the Libyan operations are now led by the US and NATO in some shape and form. From a UN perspective, could you think of any other organisations, other than the US and NATO, that could implement any such resolution?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: It is very unlikely that there would have been any other organisations with the capacity and the political will to implement the resolutions, so I think it was widely understood that the coalition would be based around NATO as its core, but Arab League participation was very important and was spelt out in Resolution 1973 very specifically, because the actions we were taking were in response to a request from the Arab League. Arab League participation in the operation was very important to many member states of the Security Council.
Q101 Ms Stuart: We will have a bit more about NATO in the second session. I want to focus on your experience of the way that the United Nations works. Given that NATO was stretched to its limits and given the cutbacks in defence spending, do you feel that there may be a reluctance to have future, wide-reaching UN resolutions against other countries, given that the UN may have trouble finding anybody to implement any of them?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: It is often a challenge. When the United Nations was originally set up in the 1940s it was envisaged that the UN would have a standing army. Of course, it never happened. It is true, however, that there are now 120,000 UN peacekeepers around the world, and in that sense the UN Secretary-General is the second-largest commander in chief and will be the largest when American troops withdraw from various places around the world.
It is always a challenge finding countries that are prepared to put forward those troops, however, so what happens is that the Security Council will, say, mandate a peacekeeping operation in Sudan of 10,000 troops, but the UN then has to go out and ask countries to provide those troops. In a sense, that is always the problem with the United Nations, because it has no troops of its own, so it has to rely on member states’ contributions when there are peacekeeping operations or enforcement operations, as this was.
Cathy Adams: It is probably worth noting that there are also some places where African Union missions are authorised by the Security Council.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: The African Union has put certain troops on the ground, for instance in Somalia. That is an African Union force, and in Sudan there is a hybrid force, which is partly African Union and partly UN. There are examples of non-NATO regional organisations putting troops on the ground.
Q102 Mr Hancock: In that case, do you believe that there is now an established precedent for these matters, whereby similar resolutions could be enacted for other countries, possibly in the region?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Immediately after Resolution 1973, there was Resolution 1975, a week later, which authorised all necessary means to protect civilians in Côte d’Ivoire. That was carried out by a combination of the UN peacekeepers that were there and the French forces that were stationed in Côte d’Ivoire. So, that was an example not of a similar operation, because it was obviously much smaller, but of a specific military authorisation.
As I mentioned before, there has been some concern on the part of veto-wielding powers in the Security Council about how Resolution 1973 was implemented, and I think they will be more cautious in the future about authorising military action. We will have to see. The fact that they vetoed a Syria resolution last week is a signal that there is some concern on their part. On the other hand, Resolution 2009 was unanimously agreed, and it has brought the Security Council back together again on the future of Libya. I hope that if there are circumstances in which civilians are under threat of widespread massacre, the Security Council will have the courage to authorise intervention again. The examples of Rwanda and others where we did not intervene are still very strongly held in the psyche of the United Nations.
Q103 Mr Hancock: But who makes the judgment in the Security Council? What is the feeling? Is a Libyan civilian worth more than a Syrian civilian, for example? How are those judgments formulated in the room? Where do people draw the line? Far more civilians have been killed in Syria since the uprisings began there than were killed in Libya before we decided to intervene. How does that square within the Security Council itself?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I am not sure that is quite true in terms of numbers, but it is true than nearly 3,000 civilians have been killed in Syria, and because of that we brought forward the resolution on Syria which was vetoed. We felt that the situation in Syria had reached the stage where very strong UN sanctions should be taken, rather as the European Union, the United States and other countries individually have imposed sanctions, but that was not the view of other countries.
Each country has to be seen on its merits. Each of the 15 members of the Security Council has its own national interest, and they sometimes come together and they sometimes vary. It is a negotiation. As it happens, we led on the situation in Libya and in Syria, and we drafted the resolutions that we are talking about.
Q104 Mr Hancock: So what made Libya different, then? What allowed you to get that one through? What was the circumstance that was more grave than some of the others that we know about?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I point to three issues in particular, which, from where I sat at the UN, were particularly influential. First, Gaddafi was deeply unpopular. He did not have any support in his own regional groups, either in the Arab League or in the African Union. Secondly, as I mentioned, the Arab League took a very strong forward position-the African Union, a little less so-calling for the specific actions that we implemented. Thirdly, the Libyan ambassador to the UN defected in a very public way. In the Security Council, a very public forum, he started comparing Gaddafi to Pol Pot and Hitler, and that obviously had quite a dramatic impact on Security Council members.
Those were three specific factors unique, if you like, to Libya, and they facilitated agreement on these tough resolutions. In other circumstances, such as Syria, those circumstances do not apply. The Syrian ambassador has not defected and the Arab League does not have such a strong position. Although its position is getting stronger by the day, it has not called on the Security Council to impose sanctions, and President Assad still has some support in the region. That is why it is more difficult to get strong action taken in the Security Council on Syria.
Christian Turner: If I could add something from a regional context-Mark described this very well-the very specific set of circumstances around Libya and the whole of the Arab League, as I said earlier, was absolutely critical. Although there is the broader point that precedent has been set in each of the countries we are talking about-Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere in the region-it is very specific to the country concerned.
Q105 Bob Stewart: Can I return to Security Council Resolution 1973, Sir Mark? As I understand it, it is a chapter VII enforcement action, is it not? Classic enforcement.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: That is right.
Q106 Bob Stewart: But constrained. I have read through the actual terms and essentially it says that under 1973, a chapter VII resolution authorises the use of force, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone and the requirement to protect civilians in areas targeted by the Gaddafi regime and its supporters. It is a classic enforcement action.
My question is about how that squares with the fact that, consistently, NATO forces have become, to use a populist term, the air arm of the rebel forces and continue to be so when, actually, Gaddafi’s forces are neutralised, effectively. They are in full retreat and are just in the core centre of Sirte. My worry is that having read the legal justification, it does not wash with me. I cannot see, under Resolution 1973, how we can continue to have air operations against Sirte, when, actually, there is nothing Gaddafi can do to really hurt civilians any more under that resolution. How do you answer that?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I am not best qualified to answer that, but you are right that Resolution 1973 is a chapter VII resolution. It authorises force and the terms of the action are very clear. It talks about "acting nationally or through regional organisations" to take all necessary measures "to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack". That is the authorisation, and all the actions that the coalition has taken have been in pursuance of that. There is a separate authorisation that establishes a no-fly zone, but those are the two military authorisations. They were both designed to protect civilians, and that is the justification for the military action that has been taken.
Q107 Bob Stewart: I accept that, but it does not quite answer the question, which is how the resolution justifies our continuing to take out Gaddafi’s positions in Sirte, for example, because it was specifically designed for Benghazi. We passed it through the House of Commons, thinking that Benghazi was under huge threat. People like me said, "We have to agree this now". I know that I am almost being the devil’s advocate here, because I can see your position, but I just want to tease this out. It is important because, retrospectively, we will be coming back to this situation, and I do not think that we have the wording right.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I will ask Christian to comment in a second, but, to be clear, paragraph 4 clearly states "including Benghazi", which means that it is not limited to Benghazi. We deliberately put that phrase in to highlight the fact that it was Benghazi that was immediately at threat at the time of the passage of the resolution. It is not limited to Benghazi.
Christian Turner: To address the point on Sirte, I do not think that it would be our assessment that Gaddafi’s forces are neutralised. Both Sirte and Bani Walid have a rump of resistance from pro-Gaddafi forces. There is continuing evidence coming out about civilian casualties. There was an International Committee of the Red Cross report this morning which said just that.
Q108 Bob Stewart: I accept that, Mr Turner. Right, let’s go back. What about the fact that there are civilian casualties caused by the rebel forces who are firing indiscriminately into Sirte? Under the UN Security Council resolution, you are supposed to be protecting them too.
Christian Turner: That is absolutely right. As a result, the targeting that is still being carried out under the OUP mandate has to be incredibly careful in built-up areas like Sirte. It is hard for us. We do not have people on the ground to provide that monitoring. We are trying to co-ordinate closely with the National Transitional Council to ensure that any allegations of civilian casualties caused by Free Libya forces, as we call them, are properly scrutinised and held accountable.
Q109 Bob Stewart: Under this resolution, are we able to give arms to the rebel forces?
Christian Turner: The definition of that is tightly controlled. We think that there are some specific circumstances under which defensive weapons could be provided with the aim of protecting civilians.
Q110 Bob Stewart: A defensive weapon is a rifle?
Christian Turner: No. I believe, although I am not an expert, that a rifle would not be a defensive weapon.
Q111 Bob Stewart: Then I can tell you that there are very few defensive weapons that cannot be offensive too. It worries me that later on there will be people coming back to this issue. The operation in Libya will be used as an example of where the Security Council resolution has been pushed beyond its limits, so it will stop future Security Council resolutions for subsequent problems in the world. People will say that last time we approved a Security Council resolution, which was put up mainly by the United States, the United Kingdom and France-three permanent members, with countries like Germany abstaining-they pushed it not just to the end of the balloon, but beyond it. They will say that they are cautious about doing so in the future.
The lesson is that this Security Council resolution is a busted flush, in a way. That is my comment. Forgive me if I sound aggressive when I do not mean to be. It is just that we will have to justify the actions we have taken under a Security Council resolution, which in my view, technically, does not allow us to support the rebels as they go on into military operations. It allows us to stop civilians being killed on either side-technically, written down. If you have further comments, I will listen and then shut up.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: No, I understand the point you are making, Mr Stewart. Other members of the Security Council have made that precise point. Some members have said, "You have been targeting civilian infrastructure, you have been targeting Gaddafi and his family and you are aiming for regime change. None of those are authorised in the resolution." We say that we have not been doing that. We have not targeted civilian infrastructure, which has been remarkably intact. We have not been targeting Gaddafi. We have not been aiming, through this resolution and through the military action, at regime change.
Q112 Bob Stewart: Actually, the Secretary of State said that we would target Gaddafi if he is in a command post.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Of course.
Q113 Bob Stewart: If he happens to be there.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Of course there are circumstances when, if you can make that link to the protection of civilians, that military action is justified. I am not the person best qualified to answer that question. I know, even from where I sit in New York, that all the actions that have been taken have been carefully examined and looked at legally to ask whether they can be justified and whether they are authorised by the resolutions.
The British Government have not taken any action that we do not believe is authorised by this resolution. But the implication that you are drawing-that others will say that, because of the way this has been implemented, we are going to be less enthusiastic about allowing such resolutions in future-may turn out to be the case.
Bob Stewart: I think that that is what I mean. I am just teasing it out for that very purpose.
Chair: Christian Turner, do you want to come in on this?
Christian Turner: I just want to add that I think you are right to distinguish between the political implications and the legality.
Just to clarify the offensive weapons point, the UK has not provided any such weapons. You will recall that we provided such kit as body armour. The targeting point, which Mark emphasises, is more for my Ministry of Defence colleagues, but there are very tight rules that go through those targeting sets, which led on occasion to sorties being abandoned if at points we thought that civilians were in the vicinity. That is all taken to as rigorous a position as we can.
As I said earlier, the analysis of that is that it is not easy, because we are not on the ground, but reports from outfits that have looked at it, such as the Royal United Services Institute, have commented that those casualties are lower than we have seen in previous conflicts.
Q114 Mr Havard: You will be aware that, at one level, there is an argument that the UN does not have authority to do this itself under its own charter. There is an argument that in Resolution 1970 there were definitions passed that meant you should not be doing some of these things. So it ranges from a question about the whole legality of doing any mission of this sort-Afghanistan, Libya or whatever-right through to the other end.
One of the things that concerns us in particular-me, anyway-is individuals who are later judged, with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight three years down the line, on what they did or did not do under the regime that you are talking about in respect of targeting and whether their behaviour was appropriate. We are a signatory to the International Criminal Court and our personnel involved-be they civilian or military-have particular legal obligations. I want to be clear that they will not be left exposed by political expediency of decision making and that legality is really there at a later date to protect them as individuals and maybe then collectively as a country-the moral obligations and all of the politics. So it operates from the macro to the micro.
Chair: Cathy Adams, do you want to answer?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Cathy can maybe answer this, but I am not aware of the argument that the UN itself did not have the legal authority to do it.
Q115 Mr Havard: But the Stop the War coalition raised an argument and they have public information.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: The UN Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security and within that definition it has extremely wide-ranging powers.
Chair: Such an argument has been put to us and you will find it in the written evidence.
Mr Havard: It will be in the evidence.
Cathy Adams: On the legality, I do not think there are any serious issues, as Mark says, about the fact that the Security Council has the power, under chapter VII of the charter, to authorise the use of force, which it did in this case.
As far as targeting is concerned, that is actually a slightly separate issue, because the legality of the operation is separate from the legality of how the operation is carried out, which is essentially what the ICC is looking at. It is certainly a very important issue. I am not from the MoD and I obviously cannot speak to this, but I know that the process that they go through in terms of ensuring that the targeting is compatible with international humanitarian law is scrupulous, precisely for the reasons that you have given.
I will say a couple of words about the arms embargo, which has raised a couple of questions. It is worth emphasising two points. First, even when the arms embargo was first adopted, there were a number of exemptions from it, and there are various procedures either from notifying the committee or seeking exemptions from the sanctions committee. Some kit that has been supplied has fallen within those provisions.
Secondly, in relation to the relationship between the authorisation in paragraph 4 of Resolution 1973, the authorisation to use force and the arms embargo, if you look at the resolution, it says that the authorisation "to take all necessary measures" is "notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970", which is the arms embargo provision. It is effectively an expressed derogation. The phrase "all necessary measures" is often taken as an authorisation to use force, but it effectively means any measures that are necessary up to and including the use of force. It could be interpreted, in certain circumstances, as providing that conditions are fulfilled. That is absolutely key, as Mr Stewart has said, as is authorising other measures including possibly the supply of arms. But, as Mr Turner said, that has not been done in terms of offensive weapons.
Q116 Chair: Article 41 states: "The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions". Where does the power to employ the use of armed force come from?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Resolution 1970 is under chapter VII and article 41, so it expressly excludes the use of force for that reason. Resolution 1973 is deliberately under chapter VII and makes no reference to article 41, which means that it incorporates all of chapter VII that includes article 41 and article 42, which is the authorisation of the use of force. That is why there is a difference between Resolutions 1970 and 1973, and Resolution 1973 was the specific military authorisation. Resolution 2009 goes back to chapter VII, but only article 41. There is a very clear division.
Q117 Thomas Docherty: If you accept that around Sirte the Free Libya force is not taking measures to protect the civilian population when it is shelling them-the accusation that Bob Stewart made to you and you did not challenge-it is difficult to believe that, if the Gaddafi regime were carrying out that kind of attack, you would not have stepped in. How can I explain to my constituents who see us as playing to two standards that we are not?
Christian Turner: Most of the fighting around Sirte is not through aerial bombardment. The problem now is that the town is surrounded and they are working through neighbourhoods. Obviously, the broader point that we are discussing with Mr Stewart is that we want to see an end to civilian casualties. What the Free Libya forces are not doing is systematic targeting of civilian populations that we have seen from the pro-Gaddafi forces. So the ongoing involvement of the OUP forces is to try to prevent that and to go after the command and control centres. If we saw evidence that the Free Libya forces were causing widespread civilian casualties, we would absolutely be responding to that.
Q118 Thomas Docherty: Have you?
Christian Turner: Have we seen that? No.
Q119 Thomas Docherty: Have you spoken to the Free Libya forces to make it clear that we would not play double standards?
Christian Turner: Absolutely. So now at HQ in Tripoli the degree to which we are working continually in that advisory capacity with them is a very important part of our dialogue.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I might just add that Resolution 2009, which was passed in September and came after the recognition by the international community of the NTC as a legitimate Government, sets out some very tough political messages to the NTC. It says precisely that it is now its responsibility to protect civilians, to abide by international law and to protect foreign nationals and diplomats and so on. We recognise that there has been a change of Government and that there are now very strong obligations imposed by the Security Council on the NTC.
Christian Turner: To add to that, Chairman Jalil himself has been very robust and strong in his repeating of his commitment to those principles.
Q120 Mrs Moon: To reiterate, now that there has been a change of Government, in many respects the civilian population has had greater protection from potential retribution, particularly in a tribal society where there might otherwise have been greater blood-letting for those who had resisted. Do you agree that the civilian population has been protected by the overarching responsibility for all parties engaged in this conflict to protect civilians, whether from NATO or from the new Government within Libya?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: Yes, I think that that is fair. In this sort of situation there are always concerns that there could be reprisals and that vulnerable groups could be targeted. There has been a particular concern about African migrant workers.
Because Gaddafi used quite a lot of mercenaries from Africa, anyone with a darker skin has been accused of being a mercenary. There were concerns that the NTC forces might carry out reprisals, which is why we covered in Resolution 2009 some very clear injunctions against reprisals and for protecting African migrant workers and other vulnerable groups. There is a very good understanding, as Mr Turner said, on the part of the NTC leadership, of the importance of national reconciliation and of the inclusivity of the political process-bringing in groups that are not naturally affiliated to them and protecting vulnerable minority groups. We are much more confident now that those groups will be protected than we were under the Gaddafi regime.
Chair: We are running out of time, I am afraid-Sandra Osborne.
Q121 Sandra Osborne: Can I ask you about the Prime Minister’s announcement on the lessons learned exercise to be carried out by his National Security Adviser? I assume that you will have an input into that. What lessons have been learned as far as the UK’s future role in the UN is concerned?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: I have not thought in detail about that question. I imagine that I will be asked to contribute to the lessons learned exercise. Certainly, there will be some lessons for us in the Security Council. What happened in this particular case is that, because of the urgency of the situation, we had to move extremely fast. The resolutions were negotiated in a very short time, and had we had more time some of the uncertainties and legal wrinkles could have been sorted out better.
There are lessons about trying to bring on board as many of the Security Council members as possible at an early stage. We have been trying to do that on Syria, and we are trying to do that on Yemen and other countries that were also part of the Arab spring.
In a way, my task is to get the resolutions that the British Government feel are required or are necessary through the Security Council. As I mentioned, every member of the Security Council has slightly different interests, and therefore you have to make compromises in the negotiation, but the more you can bring along those who do not necessarily agree with your world view or who do not agree with your specific views of a region, the better the chance of having a strong, united voice.
There is no doubt that when the Security Council is united, speaks with one voice and votes unanimously, it gives a much more powerful political message than when there are divisions, when there are vetoes, when resolutions fail or even when there is a certain number of abstentions. Although they have the same legal force, provided they are not vetoed, resolutions have greater moral and political force if they are unanimous. There are lessons on how we can try to build those coalitions within the Security Council and bring other people along with us.
Christian Turner: We will be contributing to that National Security Council-led process to provide a Government-wide view on lessons learned. If I could just add my three quick ha’pennyworth to what Mark has said. First, the point on legitimacy, which we have been discussing in the regional context, has been a very important part of the policy on Libya. Planning early for stabilisation is not something that you are focused on, but the efforts we started in June to ensure that post-conflict look was very important. Finally, the emphasis throughout on the process being Libyan-led and the mantra about the wishes of the NTC being primary have all been key threads through the conflict.
Q122 Sandra Osborne: Did you notice any change in UK decision making or co-ordination with the advent of the National Security Council?
Sir Mark Lyall Grant: From my point of view, that has worked very well. There have been, more or less for the past six months, weekly official-level meetings of the National Security Council specifically on Libya, into which I have been able to participate by video conference from New York, and other posts have been able to do so as well. That has been extremely important in ensuring that we have coherence across Whitehall, but also that key posts such as NATO, the UN, Washington, etc. are all in line with the policy of the centre. I will not say that it would not have happened before, but the structures of the National Security Council have helped that.
Q123 Chair: Okay, thank you very much indeed-to all three of you-for that evidence. It was most helpful. We will now consider the NATO issue and I would be grateful if we could have a quick changeover.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mariot Leslie CMG, UK Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council, and Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper KBE, UK Military Representative to NATO and EU, gave evidence.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence. You were here throughout the earlier session. We may be able to take this session rather more briefly, because you have heard all the questions and some of them may have been covered already. Could you introduce yourselves?
Mariot Leslie: I am Mariot Leslie, the British Permanent Representative and Ambassador to NATO.
Air Marshal Harper: I am Air Marshal Chris Harper, the United Kingdom Military Representative to NATO.
Q124 Chair: Thank you, can we begin on the input that NATO and individual Defence Ministries across NATO had in the passing of the United Nations resolutions? You heard what Sir Mark said; is there anything you want to add or subtract from what he said, or any nuance you want to put into how much NATO was able influence the passing of the resolutions?
Mariot Leslie: He described the process well. NATO has a small liaison office in New York to the UN, because of the many operations in which the UN and NATO have a common interest, including notably Afghanistan, with the UN presence there. As long as there was no NATO operation, there was nothing for NATO to discuss with the UN, so there was no official relationship between NATO and the UN or UN staff on Afghanistan until such time as the NATO operation was up and running. We were therefore talking about an intergovernmental process, both in the UN Security Council and in NATO in the North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee, which Air Marshal Harper can speak about, in which those countries that were most active diplomatically between their capitals, but in New York and in NATO in Brussels, were well aware of what was going on at both ends.
The North Atlantic Council started discussing the crisis in Libya in a very informal way-untasked, but raised in some of our informal meetings-in late February; I was raising it and then started having informal meetings with Libya on the agenda for discussion. As we got much closer to the point when the UN Security Council resolution was being negotiated, those discussions started wrapping up in the council. I think the Military Committee was also discussing it informally and NATO commanders were beginning on their own authority to do a very, very light touch of what we call prudent planning-untasked, unauthorised and therefore not using resources, but just being aware of the situation and gathering information. NATO planning started more formally once the first UN resolution was passed at the end of February.
Q125 Chair: Air Marshal Harper, would you like to add anything about that? Were you able to say whether this would be a realistic task to achieve before the resolutions were passed?
Air Marshal Harper: There was certainly no aim to influence the process, but certainly to provide facts, figures and details whenever we were asked. As Mariot has just said, essentially most of the negotiation with the UN was done by capitals at that point.
Q126 Chair: Thank you. You have heard some of the questions about Sirte for example. How have the operations been monitored in relation to compliance with the UN resolutions from a NATO point of view?
Air Marshal Harper: Sirte is, if you like, the culmination of what is going on in Libya at the moment. The process of monitoring what has been occurring in Libya has been taking place throughout this military campaign, throughout which we have seen continued evidence of pro-Gaddafi forces-still to some extent controlled by Gaddafi himself, we believe-seeking systematically to prosecute the civilian population of Libya. It is that which we have therefore been trying to stop using the NATO operation.
In Sirte itself, we are very closely monitoring what is going on, as much as we can with the assets available, but as Sir Mark made clear, there are no NATO forces on the ground in Libya, so this is very much a case of being in very close contact with the NTC forces and being assured by them that there is no indiscriminate action taking place and that what they are doing is prosecuting their campaign in a military manner.
Q127 Chair: So the distinction you are drawing is that the Gaddafi regime had a systematic intention of attacking civilians, whereas the opposition forces have had no such malign intention. Is that right?
Air Marshal Harper: That is exactly right. Right from the beginning we heard statements by Gaddafi-I am sure I will not get the quote exactly right-along the lines of, "We will root them out like rats, city by city, town by town, house by house," and that was in the lead-up to Benghazi. Some months later, while humanitarian operations were taking place, trying to evacuate civilian personnel from the city of Misrata, we saw Gaddafi forces starting to mine that port during the operation; there was indiscriminate artillery fire into Misrata at that time, which used anti-personnel weapons as part of its armoury. There are many other similar cases. We have seen throughout this the pro-Gaddafi forces systematically attempting to prosecute the civilian population of Libya.
Mariot Leslie: If I might add to that, Air Marshal Harper has quite correctly described, if you like, the application of what NATO is doing. Hard-wired in the way in which NATO has set up its rules of engagement, its concept of operations, its initiating directives that started the planning and in the execution directive with which the North Atlantic Council tasked the NATO commanders to carry out the operation, there was very close attention to those rules of engagement, to make sure that they were compatible with the UN Security Council resolutions. The steer that the Council was giving to the military commanders was, "You are to fulfil these resolutions, no more and no less, so use the whole scope of the mandate to achieve the political intent of the NATO Governments, but don’t step beyond it." Just as the military commanders were interpreting that in the way that the Air Marshal has described, the Council was also watching very closely, with not only the United Kingdom but many other countries being very concerned to make sure that the limits were not overstepped in anything NATO did.
Q128 Mrs Moon: Do you see any implications for the political future of NATO and its command structures in member states refusing to participate in the operation?
Mariot Leslie: There has been a great deal in the press about that. I think it is probably worth explaining that the situation is much more complex than has sometimes appeared in the media. First of all, there was a process, as you would expect, of negotiation in the North Atlantic Council, running more or less in parallel with the negotiations in New York on what were the two original UN Security Council resolutions. There were clearly different views in the capitals and Governments of NATO members, but those views were resolved and very rapidly-extraordinarily rapidly-there was consensus inside the North Atlantic Council, on the basis of the consensus inside the Military Committee from whom we took advice, that we were to have this operation. NATO operations are by consensus-there is no voting in NATO-so all 28 members had agreed that the operation would take place. All had said at the time when we agreed that perhaps not everybody would be taking part in it, but nobody wanted to prevent those who did want to take part in it from taking part. That was an understanding around the Council table from the start.
You then see that, actually, every member of NATO took part in some way through the command structure. Nobody withdrew themselves from the command structure or refused to play their normal part. A number of countries that perhaps did not appear in the combat operations none the less reinforced parts of the command structure, sometimes to bring staff with specialist skills to move into the Libya taskforce and sometimes simply to reinforce it themselves. A lot of that went on in a way that has not actually had a lot of attention in the media.
There were then some nations that simply did not have the capabilities that were required for what was a relatively limited operation. Let me name just two types of example. This was a maritime operation and an air operation. Some countries are land-locked and do not have much by way of a navy and, quite soon, the NATO commanders had what they needed by way of maritime capabilities for what was essentially the arms embargo. They did not need any more, so those countries that did not have big marine assets were not being asked to deliver them, and were not refusing to deliver them, because they were not being asked. If you look at some of the air assets, some countries had already agreed many years ago through the NATO defence planning process that they would not buy fast jets; they would not focus on that. NATO would provide air policing, for instance, over the Baltic countries, and they did not actually have many of the capabilities that were required for this operation. The overall picture of who contributed and who did not, and who might have contributed more is therefore rather more nuanced than perhaps has sometimes appeared in the press.
Chair: I will bring in Gisela Stuart very briefly on that point and then come back to you?
Q129 Ms Stuart: I fully accept what you say about countries not having navies. Can you just explain to me, as a matter of intrigue, what happens in countries that do not have a Government? As I understand it, the Belgians were very active participants. I am not sure about the constitutional structure in a country that sends its troops to war at a time when it does not have a Government.
Mariot Leslie: Belgium had a state and it had an interim Government-Government functions continued in Belgium. The Belgians played a remarkable role, both politically in helping to form consensus in the council and in taking part in the operations to protect civilians. Full credit to them.
Q130 Ms Stuart: And there were no constitutional problems-it was just straightforward?
Mariot Leslie: They managed it themselves, yes.
Chair: You imply that countries work better without Governments. [Laughter.]
Q131 Mrs Moon: A number of non-NATO countries were involved, particularly countries from the Arab League. Do you see greater opportunity for further engagement of countries outside of NATO in future operations?
Mariot Leslie: That was the great success of NATO’s partnership policy. It is not the first time: we are now-if not this week, then by next week-up to 50 countries taking part in the ISAF operations in Afghanistan. I think Bahrain is just about to join us as No. 50. There are plenty of other operations in which NATO has partners involved. What was special about this one is that NATO, right from the start, when the council was looking at whether or not we were going to take on this operation to enforce UN Security Council resolutions, and following something that the British Foreign Secretary had formulated, said that it was important to us that there was a demonstrable need for military activity, a clear legal base for it and clear regional support. We already knew from national contacts that in particular the Qataris and Emiratis were likely to want to get involved if there were a NATO operation to plug themselves into. It was an operation that allowed them to use the types of interoperability with NATO that our partnership policies already allowed us to practise and exercise elsewhere. Right from the start, they were around the table, as were the Swedes, who work very well with NATO, using, incidentally, elements from the EU battle group- the Nordic battle group-and so were a number of other Arab countries. It was the council’s intention from the start-indeed, for some members it was almost a condition from the start-that there should be demonstrable regional support, which those partnerships did indeed demonstrate.
Q132 Mrs Moon: Were they integrated into the NATO command structure, or did NATO merely co-ordinate their separate activities? How did their integration within the NATO operation take place?
Mariot Leslie: Once the operation started, at the political level-the North Atlantic Council-we almost invariably met partners around the table. We met in what we call Operation United, but in Unified Protector format, with all the partner countries-five of them-sitting around the table with us. Technically speaking, to reach consensus, it was only the 28 members of NATO who could take a decision, but they were there in all the debates and their views were taken account of. In the Military Committee, the Military Representative can speak. At the command level I think they were involved in Naples.
Air Marshal Harper: Yes. Exactly the same, they are integrated in the Military Committee for meetings covering Operation Unified Protector, and they were integrated into the NATO command and control structure, so essentially they were under the command of NATO operations and directed in NATO operations as well.
Q133 Mrs Moon: Do you see any difference or change in the nature of the dialogue between NATO and the region as a result of the Libya engagement? Has it improved? Has it been helpful, or has it made things more difficult?
Chair: In the Middle East and North Africa?
Mrs Moon: Yes.
Mariot Leslie: It clearly improved it. It also proved wrong those allies who were saying before the start of the operation that it would be deadly for our relations with the Arab world, because they did not want anything to do with NATO, and thought we should perhaps continue as a coalition because they will not want to have anything to do with NATO. That was not what Britain thought, and it was not how things turned out in the event. I am finding a much more vocal and interactive relationship with Arab countries.
Q134 Mrs Moon: Finally, do you think there will be a greater focus and interest in NATO generally in the future? Will the back door become something that is perhaps looked at more often?
Mariot Leslie: NATO has had long-standing partnerships with the Maghreb and the Near East in its so-called Mediterranean dialogue, which has not been very active recently, so this may be an opportunity to revive it. Libya was not a member of that so-called Mediterranean dialogue, and the question now arises whether it would like to join it. I think NATO would be very open to that. Then there is a thing called the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative-the ICI-which goes rather further into the Gulf countries. Not every Arab country belongs to it, but many do. Both those dialogues have been given a new lease of life by this operation, and I suspect that NATO as a whole will want to note that at its next summit in Chicago next May.
Q135 Bob Stewart: Is it true, Air Marshal, that seven Paveway bombs were dropped around Sirte on Monday?
Air Marshal Harper: I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that question. It is probably best addressed to-
Q136 Bob Stewart: If it is true, there are ongoing military operations around Sirte, which is slightly contradictory to the impression I had previously. We have talked about the Arab League. What exactly is the Arab League contributing in military hardware, particularly on the ground? Anything?
Air Marshal Harper: I do not know the answer to your question about contributions on the ground, but members of the Arab League, particularly Qatar and the UAE, as we have just discussed, have been closely involved from the beginning. But the Arab League as an organisation is not involved in the military operation.
Q137 Bob Stewart: I thought the Military Committee had a military briefing on what goes on in operations that are NATO controlled, normally on a daily basis. Does it, did it, or is that now non-existent?
Air Marshal Harper: The Military Committee does not meet daily and does not have a daily-
Q138 Bob Stewart: The Military Committee and the North Atlantic Council as such, which you sit on-
Air Marshal Harper: It does not meet daily.
Q139 Bob Stewart: But it meets at least weekly, doesn’t it?
Air Marshal Harper: Yes. That is correct.
Q140 Bob Stewart: Does it have a military briefing on what is going on the ground?
Air Marshal Harper: Yes, it does.
Q141 Bob Stewart: So it does not get told what is on the ground?
Air Marshal Harper: No, but your question was: what is the Arab League, as an organisation, doing on the ground?
Q142 Bob Stewart: So if there was anything on the ground, the Military Committee would know about it? I am being persistent, but I am not trying to be horrid.
Air Marshal Harper: That’s all right. The Arab League as an organisation is not represented de facto on the ground, but there are Arab League member states involved in the operation. I am not aware of what those states are doing on the ground, but Arab League member states are involved in the operation. I am not aware what those states are doing on the ground.
Bob Stewart: Thank you.
Q143 Mr Hancock: How do you think NATO will measure a successful outcome to the operations in Libya? How will you establish an exit strategy-or have you already done so?
Mariot Leslie: Those are probably two separate questions. NATO has been saying clearly, and Defence Ministers who met last week in Brussels said yet again, that the operation has not finished; it will go on for as long as required but not a moment longer. You heard Sir Mark Lyall Grant and Christian Turner talking a bit about the manner in which the operation might end. I would expect it to end in a way that is concerted with what the United Nations is saying and what is said by the National Transitional Council-recognised internationally as the legitimate Government of Libya for the time being-and the North Atlantic Council. The North Atlantic Council will want to look at those other organisations and at whether the mandate to protect civilians from the threat of attack in Libya has been met, or whether there is still a serious threat to the civilian population. I expect a consensus view to emerge in the NTC, the UN and NATO, but NATO could take its own decision at any time in advance of the other two organisations and is not dependent on them.
Q144 Mr Havard: When is the next formal roll-over date review?
Mr Hancock: A further 90 days.
Mariot Leslie: We rolled it over again in September, so it therefore goes from 27 September to 26 December.
Q145 Mr Havard: The 26 December?
Mariot Leslie: Yes, December, but we are not sending a message to the world that we still necessarily expect to be continuing the operation then; we could end it as soon as we regard that to be necessary, or we could extend it. It was a technical roll-over of three months because we do it three months at a time.
Q146 Mr Hancock: If the transitional Government said, "We don’t want you here any longer," would that be enough for you to walk away?
Air Marshal Harper: No, it would not. That would be potentially taken into account as one of the conditions that might play into the decision, but only one. That is because, as we have said all along, the UNSCR mandates that we protect civilians. Even were there a request, if a risk to civilian life was still posed by pro-Gaddafi forces that consideration would have to be taken into account as well.
Q147 Mr Hancock: What planning is being done on the exit strategy? You didn’t get round to answering that.
Mariot Leslie: We discuss it pretty regularly. The Council meets formally at least twice a week and informally as often as it wants but on a similar scale. We discuss the sorts of things I have already mentioned-what might happen in the United Nations, what the National Transitional Council might say, what is happening on the ground, and when we might think that the indicators have been met to allow us to bring the operation to a close.
We have always said, and Defence Ministers said it again last week, that it will be a political decision informed by military advice. The signal to the outside world at present is that the operation will continue as long as the mandate is necessary. At a time when pro-Gaddafi forces are still fighting, we do not want to be too explicit in a message that could reach the outside world about exactly what conditions would bring the operation to an end. It will come to an end when it is no longer necessary and when we think that civilians are no longer under serious threat of attack.
Q148 Mr Hancock: One of the serious potential problems arises out of the lack of control over weapons that were held by pro-Gaddafi forces, in particular surface-to-air missiles, which now seem to be unaccounted for. What is NATO doing about that issue?
Mariot Leslie: NATO is not doing anything about it-
Q149 Mr Hancock: So who is?
Mariot Leslie: NATO has destroyed quite a lot of the stocks of munitions that Gaddafi forces were drawing on. In the early stages of the campaign, a lot of those munitions stocks were bombed by NATO. At present it is individual countries helping the National Transitional Council in the ways that Christian Turner and Sir Mark Lyall Grant described.
Q150Mr Mike Hancock: Disarming is one thing; finding out what has happened to the arms and in whose hands they are now potentially is an issue that must worry all of us. What are you doing about that particular issue? That is the question; not about disarming weapons you know or the ones you destroyed. The question is specifically about the widespread press reports that a large number of surface-to-air missiles have now disappeared. What is NATO’s response to that, and how we can we be sure we can protect ourselves from that? What are we doing to go after those weapons?
Mariot Leslie: NATO does not have any forces on the ground. Where NATO intelligence can detect munitions and deal with them as part of the priorities-because Libya is a huge country and priorities have been preventing civilians from being attacked-where they have been relevant to those targets we have been taking on in NATO in order to protect civilians most imminently at risk of attack, NATO has dealt with ammunition stores. NATO does not have a ground-based campaign to find munitions and disable them.
Q151 Chair: If you have to bomb on a munitions dump, it is difficult to be sure what was inside it.
Mariot Leslie: If you do not have ground forces to do the follow-up operation, indeed.
Q152 Chair: And if the British Ministry of Defence can lose £6.5 billion-worth of assets, presumably the Libyan Ministry of Defence can do something similar. Moving on from that, Sandra Osborne.
Q153 Sandra Osborne: May I ask you about decision-making in NATO? How quickly can decisions actually be made given the consensus and all the rest of it that you have talked about?
Mariot Leslie: For this operation they were made extraordinarily rapidly. I don’t think there has ever been an operation when a crisis has appeared as this one did in mid-February and a matter of weeks later there is an operation already taking place.
The decision to launch the NATO military operation was actually taken by the council 10 days after the second UNSCR-that is a record time. How did it happen? It happened because the military authorities were extremely effective at SHAPE and elsewhere in the planning that the council had tasked them. The international staff were backing that up very rapidly. The council was getting very quickly the assessments, including the intelligence assessments, for which it asked.
Nobody was reckless in what they did but there were times when the rather long chain of military planning had various bits going on simultaneously rather than sequentially, so the decisions were made on the basis of things brought together at the decision point, but had been going on in parallel. We had people working on concepts of operations for some part of the operation while simultaneously working out the rules of engagement for other parts of the operation, and then bringing the strands together of how you did an arms embargo, how you did a no-fly zone, how you would conduct attacks or measures to protect civilians.
They were working up the forces required and the planning often in parallel and then reconciling them just before the rules of engagement were brought to the council for decision. It was a remarkable tribute to our military colleagues, how quickly they worked. In the council, people worked with extraordinary speed-early, late or weekend-for about three weeks, to reach the final decisions, which the council took on 27 March.
Air Marshal Harper: It was incredible, quite frankly. I arrived on 9 March in NATO headquarters from my former job, which was as a deputy commander at Joint Force Command headquarters Brunsumm. At that stage the main security concern was what was going on in the Gulf. Over the period of the next three weeks, I saw NATO headquarters essentially on an operational footing, both at political and military levels.
Ambassador Leslie has described the process: getting consensus from 28 nations; getting operational plans drawn together; establishing headquarters and a bespoke command and control system for a complex operation; generating the forces; accounting for all of the political nuances; and bringing in those nations that, in some cases, had some initial concerns that needed to be explained or discussed. Doing all of that in 10 days was quite a process.
As the ambassador has said, for some three weeks there was roughly 18 to 20 hours a day of fevered negotiation, and sometimes having to go between nations to assist with the negotiation. To generate that in 10 days was quite a feat. When one casts one’s mind back to the Bosnia campaign, the same process took some 15 months.
Q154 Sandra Osborne: What is your assessment of the level of civilian casualties?
Mariot Leslie: We have no means of knowing how many civilian casualties have been caused by Gaddafi forces. At various stages, we have seen numbers put out by Libyan authorities, but I have no sense of how we could validate those numbers. No doubt the UN will, at some stage, make some assessment as part of its needs assessment, but I do not think we have any good figures on which we can rely.
So far as the NATO campaign is concerned, from the start the rules of engagement contained a direction to the military commanders to minimise the risk of civilian casualties and of damage to civilian infrastructure. The commanders have done that extraordinarily well, partly because they take the direction extremely seriously, partly because there are some extremely skilled people fusing the intelligence and operating on it carefully, and-we haven’t seen this to the same extent in other air campaigns, although the Air Marshal is better placed than I am to comment-partly because of the use of precision weapons. As Christian Turner said in your earlier session, there is a great deal of alertness on the part of the command chain, the taskforce in Naples and individual operators. If they see any risk of civilians suddenly appearing when they aren’t expected, operations are aborted at short notice.
We will never know whether some civilians have been accidentally killed by NATO because we have nobody on the ground to do the post-strike assessments, but we do not know of any civilians who have been killed. Our belief is that the numbers, if any at all, are extremely small.
Q155 Sandra Osborne: In that case, will you comment on a quote from the Russian Foreign Minister? He recently said, "Members of the international community, first of all our Western partners, have chosen the path of supporting one of the sides in the civil war-probably the party that represented the Libyan people’s legitimate aspirations, but this still increased the number of casualties among the civilian population". What is your response to that statement?
Mariot Leslie: It doesn’t really reflect what I have just described to you.
Q156 Mrs Moon: The New York Times carries a fantastic article on the brave role of women in Libya. Women are moving out of the traditional roles and expectations, and, in particular, they are operating to protect some of the fighters by carrying munitions and providing medical care and support. They are taking a front-line role that women in that country have not previously operated. How do you see NATO helping and supporting Libyan women in the future, perhaps through a humanitarian role, to ensure that there are opportunities for women to have a wider role in the building of the new Libya?
Mariot Leslie: I am sure you are aware of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on the role of women in armed conflicts. That resolution is embedded in everything NATO does when it approaches conflicts and operations. When NATO enters partnership arrangements with other countries, to help with security sector reform, for example, it ensures that all considerations in that UNSCR are taken into account in the way in which it does its training and mentoring programmes, its operations with other countries, its exercises and so on.
Frankly, in the case of Operation Unified Protector, in which nobody is on the ground, I do not think it is a relevant consideration. In the future, if, as I hope and expect, Libya becomes a partner nation of NATO, all of that approach will of course be a mainstream part of the way in which NATO helps Libya with its own future security.
Q157 Chair: Did operations in Afghanistan have any impact on operations in Libya or vice versa, and if so, what?
Air Marshal Harper: Afghanistan, without question and throughout this campaign, has remained NATO’s main effort, so no risk was ever taken against operational success in Afghanistan while prosecuting the campaign in Libya. There were movements of assets, platforms and capabilities between the two theatres. The straightforward answer to your question, Chair, is that no risk was taken in Afghanistan to benefit the Libya campaign. That was able to be done with resources made available specifically for that purpose.
Q158 Thomas Docherty: Obviously, this was a partnership operation by its very nature. Were you aware, either at the start or in the course of the operations, of any limitations, either political or military, that were placed on either the UK’s ability or NATO as a whole by this partnership approach or because of the outcomes of the SDSR?
Air Marshal Harper: I am not sure that I understand the thrust of that question. Could you ask it again?
Q159 Thomas Docherty: For example-I’ll take this in reverse-as an outcome of the SDSR, we did not have carrier capacity; we did not have a marine patrol ability. I suspect that that may have had an impact on, for example, ISTAR and our ability to do reconnaissance work. Did you find any limitations in the fact that you were basing in Italy? Did you find any limitations in the fact that you were having to share assets or having to rely on other nations to provide you with assets?
Air Marshal Harper: The answer to your question, Mr Docherty, is that obviously this was an alliance operation, in which essentially the sum of the parts come together to deliver the required military effect. Therefore, any limitations suffered by an individual nation are made up for by what other members of the alliance contribute to the campaign. It was pretty widely reported that a lot of the key enablers were provided by the United States and, indeed, the debate has subsequently been opened as to whether European nations need to do more to fill the capability gap in terms of being able to have some of those key enablers for themselves. However, during this campaign, we did not suffer for lack of any particular capability. Indeed, alliance members and in particular the United States bent over backwards to make sure that we were always provided with the minimum capability required to be able to prosecute the mission as successfully as we did.
Mrs Moon: May I interrupt for a moment? Your voice is very quiet.
Air Marshal Harper: I do apologise.
Mrs Moon: I am struggling to hear you at times. I’m finding myself leaning more and more forward to hear you and I think that some of the people behind you are also struggling to hear, so could you please speak up a little?
Q160 Thomas Docherty: What additional capabilities would have been useful in the course of the operation, either for UK forces or did you find as you went along that it would have been helpful to be able to call on certain resources as a whole?
Air Marshal Harper: The principal focus for the alliance that springs out of Libya, one of the principal lessons learned, is that ISR-intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-is a key enabler that the alliance as a whole needs to address. At the moment, the principal capability for that comes from the United States. That said, our contribution, the United Kingdom’s contribution, through assets such as Sentinel, which is a moving target indicator capability that we have, and Sentry, the airborne early warning and control system-the AWACS-played very key parts in this campaign as well. However, I think ISR will be shown as one of those areas that the alliance must concentrate on in the future.
Q161 Thomas Docherty: In terms of the cost-effectiveness of capabilities deployed, did we get good value for money from our capabilities?
Air Marshal Harper: The United Kingdom’s contribution to this NATO campaign was exceptional. Those forces that we did apply conducted themselves in an exemplary manner and, indeed, in full line with all the direction that came from the North Atlantic Council to make sure that we protected civilians. Indeed, I remember well the event I think the ambassador was referring to, when aircraft flew from the United Kingdom to a target in the Tripoli area. A minute before weapon release, they found out that there was a possibility of there being civilians in the target area, stopped prosecuting the attack and brought the weapons all the way back home to the United Kingdom. My sense, hearing about that event, was one of pride at the professionalism displayed, but also at the capability that we had just been able to demonstrate, because that was a pretty significant mission.
Q162 Chair: Were they civilians or foreign journalists?
Air Marshal Harper: We heard that they were journalists. I do not know whether they were foreign.
Q163 Thomas Docherty: I understand the argument you rightly make about the merits of calling off that mission, but I would suggest that it is not cost-effective to fly all the way from, say, Marham to Tripoli, and then to turn round and come back. Are you aware of the comments of Rear Admiral Paolo Treu, the commander of Italian naval aviation, who told DefenseNews on 20 June, "Libya is really showing that these aircraft"-he was talking about Harriers-"are needed." He said-this is the Italians we are talking about-"They are five minutes from the operational zone, which reduces…wear and tear…they cost less than Tornados and Eurofighters". My understanding is that Italy, France and the US all deployed carriers at various point in operations. Two of the three-the US and the Italians-flew Harriers off their carriers. Was it more cost-effective to deploy Tornados and Typhoons, particularly, as you just said, when you flew them on occasion all the way from the United Kingdom, than to have an aircraft carrier sitting five minutes away, as the Italians did?
Air Marshal Harper: I think questions of cost and cost-benefit analysis in this instance should rightly be referred to the Ministry of Defence. From an operational standpoint, there was no difference, quite honestly, in the air power delivered from land bases or sea bases. One must note that, in many instances, aircraft that were flying from aircraft carriers did in fact require air-to-air refuelling. Air bases that float are useful in some circumstances. Whether they were particularly useful in this one will be a matter for, I am sure, considerable debate.
Thomas Docherty: Obviously, I accept that there is still a need for refuelling on occasion, but he also said-
Q164 Chair: Perhaps you can come on to that question in just a moment. Air Marshal Harper, you just said that questions of cost and cost-benefit should rightly be put to the individual nation states, and I am sure you are right that they should and that they will be. Surely, however, NATO, as an organisation takes some account of those issues in the way it decides to prosecute its operations, does it not?
Air Marshal Harper: Absolutely, it does, Chairman. All I would say, though, is that the capability requirement comes first and foremost here. The bed-down that we achieved very rapidly, as previously described, to be able to commence this operation made best possible use of available resources.
Q165 Chair: That is not what follows from what you said previously.
Air Marshal Harper: In what respect, Chairman?
Q166 Chair: You were talking about aeroplanes flying all the way from the United Kingdom. How can that be making the best possible use of the assets available?
Air Marshal Harper: Well, because at that stage of the campaign-we are talking about the very beginning; in fact, it was before the operation came under NATO auspices-we had not even forward-based our aircraft. I thought that point was particularly noteworthy because, even from bases in the United Kingdom, we were able to prosecute the mission as directed.
Q167 Mr Havard: May I just pursue the cost issue with you for a second? The Brits are making a contribution. People who are involved directly incur costs, and those costs are real. What about the other people who all thought this was a good idea? Are there countervailing contributions from other nations? Will there be some NATO accounting process at a later date that will require people to contribute tangibly, even if they did not contribute in terms of assets?
Mariot Leslie: There are standard procedures in NATO for this. For any NATO operation there will be a relatively small central element that is common-funded: the command and control structures, and a very few key capabilities. The bulk of the cost, as we know in Afghanistan, is funded by the nations that provide the forces. That is the division you always have in NATO, between the central command structures and the force structure generated by nations.
In the case of this operation, there will be no difference. There will be some increased cost to NATO, and a common-funded element for the increased command and control systems in particular-for the setting up of the task force in Naples and all the things that went around it, including the AWACS, which are a commonly funded programme and one of the key centrally funded capabilities. Those operations costs come under the military budget. The United Kingdom’s share of that military budget is 11.5%, so we could be liable for up to 11.5% of the additional common-funded costs of this operation.
I think there will be a negotiation to be had, which has not yet started because the bills have not yet all been totted up and prepared for the various committees, about whether in practice there is enough ceiling under that budget to be able to do a certain amount of stuff by reprioritisation within the existing ceiling. Those negotiations will get under way, and I can assure you that the joint-because we are joint: we are the only nation that has a joint diplomatic and military delegation to NATO-
Q168 Mr Havard: We are not holding our breath for any sort of rebate, then?
Mariot Leslie: The joint delegation will be negotiating to make sure that as far as possible the military budget is not exceeded, or that it is only exceeded if there is a good accounting reason for it.
Q169 Chair: This is a very large question, which has been running for years, and no doubt will run for a few years more. You talked about command and control. Why wasn’t the NATO response force activated?
Air Marshal Harper: The NRF is largely a land construct, so it is not ideally suited to an operation of this nature. The other thing is the sensitivity that is described, in terms both of time and of political sensitivity. I will let the ambassador talk a bit more about the latter. In the space of 10 days, what we were able to do was pull together an operation that used existing command and control mechanisms rather than relying on the NRF structures. As I say, those are principally set out to go and deploy into a theatre to deal with a land crisis management issue.
Q170 Chair: Has the NATO response force ever been activated?
Air Marshal Harper: The answer to that is yes, in response to the Pakistani earthquake. I cannot exactly remember the year.
Q171 Chair: It was 2009. It sounds like an air operation to me.
Air Marshal Harper: Well, it was a humanitarian relief operation, which used people on the ground and indeed was supplied by air and sea.
Q172 Thomas Docherty: Returning to the remarks of your Italian counterpart, I note that he also said-accepting the point that there is still a reliance to an extent on refuelling-"it is easier to do dynamic tasking and shift operations" when using a carrier rather than when land-based. Do you agree with his assessment?
Air Marshal Harper: Whether I agree or not is not really germane to this debate. It is about whether or not the capability can be provided. Dynamic targeting is an amazingly complex military exercise, and where the platform comes from-be it a land-based or a sea-based platform-is largely irrelevant.
Q173 Thomas Docherty: I think his point is about being five minutes away rather than however many hours away. If I took your example of the plane that came-a Tornado, I assume-all the way from the UK, how long and how many refuels did it take to get that crew over its intended target?
Air Marshal Harper: Your question originally, Mr Docherty, was about dynamic targeting, and the particular mission that we described, which was launched from the United Kingdom, was for a pre-planned military target, so dynamic targeting, if we start to get into the detail of what that involves, is an aircraft on station that is already airborne. It has to be within the vicinity of the target, once it is identified, and able to react to that target. So where it has actually originated from-where it takes off from-is largely irrelevant. Its position in space determines its suitability to prosecute a particular time-sensitive or dynamic target.
Q174 Thomas Docherty: I have two final questions. If you had had a carrier for fast jets, would you have deployed it, and secondly-a broader question-what is your view of the future of maritime air power, coming out of this operation?
Chair: I am not sure if that first question is fairly asked to a NATO military representative, because we had three aircraft carriers in the region in terms of NATO. It is more of a British question, isn’t?
Thomas Docherty: That is a fair point, Mr Chairman.
Q175 Chair: So could you answer the second question?
Air Marshal Harper: We actually saw a very capable air capability deployed from a maritime asset in the form of attack helicopters-at peak there were five-being operated from HMS Ocean. They played a very pivotal role in delivering capability at a particular point in the campaign, where there were significant movements of pro-Gaddafi forces up and down lines of communication. So, arguably, this was an area of UK involvement in the campaign in Libya where you saw jointery at its best.
Q176 Mr Hancock: May I just try to clear up a little inconsistency between the answers you have given about civilian casualties and your inability to judge whether you were inflicting them? The Air Marshal was rightly proud of the fact that within one minute of deployment of bombs we were able to stop, because we were alerted to the fact that journalists were in the vicinity of where the bombs were targeted. You must have had some super-duper intelligence to be able to tell you that, but you do not seem to have the same intelligence to tell you the effectiveness or otherwise of your ability to avoid civilians. Why is that?
Mariot Leslie: It is much easier to demonstrate that there might be a civilian there-
Q177 Mr Hancock: No, they were definitely there; it came out later-didn’t it?-that these were journalists who were there. They weren’t civilians; they were journalists-[Laughter.] I know, but they were specifically identified as journalists, for goodness sake. They were not just a group of people there, and maybe the decision might have been different had they not been identified as a group of journalists. I am interested to know how that came about-that you cannot have the same intelligence on the ground to tell you how effective you are in avoiding civilians.
Mariot Leslie: I think it comes to the precautionary principle. If you have any reason to think there is a risk that you might cause damage to a civilian, then you do not do something. If, having believed you have eliminated all that risk, you are confident enough to take a target, you then cannot see inside every single building to be absolutely sure that a shard of glass has not gone through somebody you cannot see, so you cannot say with honesty and certainty "I know for a fact that I have not killed a civilian." We do not know that we have, and believe that there would be very few, if we have at all.
Chair: I do not think I want to pursue this.
Mr Hancock: I appreciate the plane was flying from the United Kingdom, but one minute from deployment we stopped it because of intelligence to say a group of people were there. I find that hard to understand.
Chair: I think we want to go back to Madeleine Moon.
Q178 Mrs Moon: Air Marshal, you were very positive about the contribution of Sentinel in terms of providing ISTAR capability. How different would the operation have been without it-if you had not had access to it?
Air Marshal Harper: It played a key and pivotal role in the operation. There is no question about that. This is a highly capable ISR platform that is able to detect movement on the ground with extraordinary high fidelity and provide that information in real time. Discussion with the air commander would indicate that he relied extremely heavily on its capability and on similar capabilities provided by other platforms. So, without that capability I do not think that we would have seen the rapid success that has been achieved.
Q179 Mrs Moon: So you do not see it as being past its sell-by date?
Air Marshal Harper: I absolutely do not.
Q180 Mr Havard: Some of this has been partly covered in some respects, but the NATO Secretary-General made a statement, saying that "this mission could not have been done without capabilities which only the United States can offer. For example, drones, intelligence and refuelling aircraft." He went on to say, "Let me put it bluntly: those capabilities are vital for all of us"-that is, all of us in NATO-and, "More allies should be willing to obtain them."
We have a defence and security review here. We have Force 2020 discussions. We are not the only NATO country. The US itself has made declarations about substantial cuts in its expenditure in the future. At one level the question is, what would happen if the Americans were not prepared to play in this particular mission? Perhaps the better question is, what are the capability questions that come from this on the basis that the United States may well not send large components of ground forces to future coalition activities in the European sphere? So, what lessons are being learnt in NATO about the capability reviews and what do you think the NATO response from the component countries should be to ensure against that?
Air Marshal Harper: I think this should be a two-part answer. I will cover the military side and hand over the rest.
Mr Havard: It is a very big question.
Air Marshal Harper: It is indeed. From the very beginning of this campaign the United States made it quite clear that it did not wish to be seen as in the lead of Operation Unified Protector but would provide as much military capability-the minimum level, actually-as necessary to achieve campaign success. It has been extraordinarily good to that promise throughout. It has adjusted priorities in other parts of the world and, indeed, taken risks with what it calls its strategic balance in order to provide the resources necessary for the success that we have enjoyed. There is no question but that this operation throws into stark relief the capability gaps that exist between the non-US members of NATO and the United States.
The Secretary-General’s top priority at the moment is an initiative called Smart Defence, which looks at the capability of pooling and sharing initiatives in the future, whereby nations would get together, multinationally, to provide capabilities. Issues to be discussed include: assured access to those capabilities and their availability, and sharing costs with industry. But, there are significant moves under way at the moment in Allied Command Transformation to address that. Indeed, the United Kingdom plays a serious role in bringing those negotiations forward.
Mariot Leslie: That is obviously absolutely right. The capabilities and the gaps that were shown up by this Libya campaign-not finished yet-are the ones that had already been identified by NATO. So, the spotlight was shone on them. There are some others that did not show up because this was a relatively limited operation and very close to NATO’s shores. But, at last year’s Lisbon summit meeting, a Lisbon capabilities package was adopted by all the heads of state and Government which included things like the priority for NATO to have more ISTAR-intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance-capabilities available to it and the need to have more capabilities among its full structure for air-to-air refuelling. There were other things in that package, too-missile defence and so on.
So, we were already on the case when the Libya campaign started. It showed how acutely important it was to crack on with this. Defence Ministers met last week. As the Air Marshal is saying, Smart Defence is one of the devices that countries hope they can use collectively to meet some of the capability requirements. But, we need to remember that, although Smart Defence will be a multinational initiative and facilitated by NATO, nations will choose, or not, to invest and then choose, or not, to make the capabilities available. By helping to produce common standards, however, with a common approach to and identification of where the most pressing gaps are, NATO hopes to be able to encourage-push, urge-countries to fill the gaps that are most important, and to give them some help in the way in which their co-operation is structured.
I expect that the next NATO summit in Chicago next May will want to look at the output of that, but a lot of projects are already just about ready to go and very close to signature. Others are still being worked through. As the military representative was saying, the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia is working very hard to try to bridge some of those gaps and to persuade nations to bridge them. At the end of the day, it will be nations that have to put the money in from very tight defence budgets. So, we are talking about spending available money better, rather than, through this initiative, necessarily generating larger defence budgets, which is a political question that should probably be put to someone else.
Q181 Mr Havard: Because of Resolution 2003, maybe NATO has found its role in the sense that the duty or responsibility to protect, for the first time, is illustrated clearly for the United Nations in this operation. These questions come into stark relief now, and I suggest that in Chicago the Americans will be saying what they will not be doing rather than what they will. Is it bilateral arrangements then? You are saying that NATO is a facilitator in this regard, but who might contribute and what might they contribute? The French-British treaty, for instance, might provide examples of capabilities, and other combinations of similar bilateral relations or a unilateral decision on buying procurement all come together, so, "What is NATO saying it needs in its toolbag?" is a question that you will put forward at the summit? We can see that coming-can we?-at Chicago? We are not going to see very much more before?
Mariot Leslie: The question of what NATO needs in its toolbag is already on the table at NATO. It is being negotiated very actively both in the committees that support the North Atlantic Council and the committees that support the Military Committee. We know pretty much what is on the list. It is the things we have already mentioned: air-to-air refuelling, some logistics and supply things, and some specialist types of skills and enablers, including targeting, have shown up. We did not find huge problems on long supply chains in Libya, for the reasons that we have explained.
Q182 Mr Havard: From your experience of the Libyan exercise, do you think that there is a big implication for NATO’s out-of-area ambitions or declarations given that the US may not be prepared to provide in quite the same way in the western hemisphere as it has in the past?
Mariot Leslie: It did provide, actually; it was not that it was not prepared to provide. It said that it did not want to take a leadership role, but it did actually provide. It said that it would like other allies to do a little bit better and make more of a contribution.
Q183 Chair: Did NATO have other shortages-for example, in relation to missiles?
Mariot Leslie: NATO did not have any missiles; the missiles belonged to the nations that were supplying them. I think that that is probably a question that needs to be asked nation by nation. It is one that you might well want to put to the people you are seeing on 26 October.
Q184 Ms Stuart: I just want to pick up on pooling and sharing. It sounds terribly nice, but you then went on to talk about access to capabilities. In your planning, we did not think Germany would abstain. You would suddenly find yourself in a position that pooling and sharing comes to nothing because your access to capabilities is suddenly thwarted by one country making a decision that you had not anticipated. How realistic is it to come up with a framework that cannot be scuppered by access suddenly and unexpectedly being denied?
Mariot Leslie: It has always been the case in NATO. The Smart Defence initiative would not change the fundamental premise.
Q185 Ms Stuart: No, but the pooling and sharing makes you reliant on these things.
Mariot Leslie: Indeed-it makes you more reliant on other people. You are absolutely right. On the case of Germany, it is worth reminding ourselves that the Germans did make their AWACS available in Afghanistan at very short notice to allow other alliance AWACS to be deployed to Libya. They were helpful over that point.
There is the perennial NATO issue of whether or not nations are going to make available the assets that they have assigned to SACEUR. Addressing that is as much a political question as it is a capabilities question. We have two problems. Do we have the capabilities-that is what the capabilities initiative will address-and is there the will to deploy them? It would be nice to have them while working on the question of the "will".
Q186 Thomas Docherty: Let me go back to the Chairman’s question. I am slightly puzzled about how the asset as a whole is under NATO, but you are saying that the weapons belong to the UK. I suggest that that is a diplomatic answer. Why is there that distinction in your mind?
Mariot Leslie: It is how NATO works. NATO has a relatively small biggest defence alliance in the world, but it is still relative to the forces of the nations that make up NATO. It has a relatively small central command structure. It currently has a so-called peacetime establishment of about 13,000. We agreed in Lisbon to bring that down to about 8,500, and there are military structures at NATO headquarters. It has very few commonly funded enabling assets such as the AWACS.
Almost the entirety of the military capability available to NATO belongs to the nations of NATO-so it is the US defence capability, the British defence capability, French, German, Polish and so on. Whenever there is a NATO operation, it is those national capabilities that are brought to bear under the NATO commanders.
What those national capabilities are, including in peacetime, are part of a defence planning process in which NATO collectively looks at what it would like to ask of individual nations. It looks at the best efforts it would like them to make to assign things for NATO commanders. It gets exercise collectively. We are familiar with what each other has and what we might make available.
At the end of the day, on every single NATO operation and within any NATO operation, a nation could decide for reasons of its own-legal, political or whatever-that it was going to withdraw that capability at very short notice. The alliance solidarity prevents most people from doing that most of the time, but it is a perpetual tension between national sovereignty and collective endeavour that is a perennial issue for the alliance.
Q187 Thomas Docherty: I understand that concept. Forgive me for being shown as the stupidest member of the Committee but when you are tasking out jobs, surely one of the things that you must ask each of the nations is, "Do you have the asset to carry out that job?" It strikes me that one of the questions that must go through the NATO commander’s mind-I expect he will ask this of the air force and the navies-is, "Do you have the capability to go and do this?" Having the weapons is an extension of, "Do you have the aircraft or the vessels?"
I think the Chairman’s question was, "Did you have concerns?" Did NATO commanders ask the Governments whether they were satisfied that they had enough munitions to continue to carry out operations? I think that that is a reasonable thing for NATO to have done. If you are telling me that NATO did not ask that-
Air Marshal Harper: Force generation is the process that you are describing here and the answer is no. We understand what is declared to NATO by member states as their available capability and you therefore trust that nation to be able to provide the capability that they have declared if and when they assign forces to a particular operation.
Q188 Thomas Docherty: Not at the start, but as it went along, did NATO not go back to the various nations and at any point ask, "How are you for Paveway IIs?"
Air Marshal Harper: If a NATO member nation is doing its job and continuing to conduct the mission without declaring a shortfall, asking to stop, or asking within the alliance for other members to assist it, it is not NATO’s business.
Q189 Chair: Did any NATO member declare any shortfall?
Air Marshal Harper: To NATO, not to my knowledge. We are aware that nations help each other out throughout the campaign, but that is only, if you like, the vibes that one had around the margins of meetings.
Mariot Leslie: I don’t know whether this helps, but there is a process as forces are generated for an operation. It starts fairly early on in the planning stage, before a decision has been taken to have an operation. First, there is an initiating directive from the Council, in which commanders are asked to start planning. Once that has started, there is a formal process in train, even though no decision has been taken to have an operation. There is a point in that planning process at which the commanders will have what they call a force sensing conference, in which they ask individual nations, "What could you provide?"
That is not a commitment from the nation, but it is a pretty good indication that they would be there on the night with that stuff. On the basis of that, they then draw up, as part of the planning, a combined joint statement of requirements, and they turn to nations and ask, "Could I have so many aircraft from you and so many ships from you?" That gets further defined at a force generation conference, and then there are various revised statements of requirement as the operation goes on and as it changes its shape. All that is part of the standard NATO procedure.
Q190 Thomas Docherty: Does it specifically go down to the minutiae, so they would say, "We will give you a dozen Typhoons, x Paveways, Brimstones and whatever else", or is it simply the air asset itself?
Mariot Leslie: No, it is as detailed as you are suggesting. To give you a sense, the force sensing for NATO took place on 19 March, before NATO had an operation although it had already initiated planning. The first force generation conference was on 28 March. That must have been a record; I don’t think there has ever been a development from force sensing to force generation conferences inside 24 hours.1
Q191 Chair: To warn those who are listening, we will ask these questions to the Secretary of State when he comes and talks to us.
Finally, there is a lessons-learned procedure going on. You will presumably be asked to contribute to that, do you think?
Mariot Leslie: I expect so.
Q192 Chair: What, at this initial stage, do you believe are the lessons that we should be learning, and what do you believe are the lessons that we should not be learning?
Mariot Leslie: I think that there will be lots of lessons learned. There will be a NATO lessons-learned exercise and a British lessons-learned exercise. First, the operation has not finished, so there may be some lessons to learn from the manner in which it finishes. The quick lessons I would identify are the speed and coherence with which NATO acted, both politically and militarily, and the agility of the command structure. There were teething problems, and they need to be addressed, but it got up to running a viable operation very quickly, having addressed those problems.
Chair: So those are two positive lessons.
Mariot Leslie: Yes. It seems that me-this has to be tested, so this is an initial view-that we learned what the United Kingdom had been contending all along, which is when you have a operation, you are going to have to augment it from the force structure from nations to meet the command requirements of that specific operation; indeed we had to on this occasion.
We learned about the value of our partnerships, which we talked about a little-the way in which we brought in countries such as Qatar, the Emirates and Sweden, and that working, inter-operating, consulting and exercising with them, well in advance of knowing that you might need them for an operation, pays dividends.
We learned all the lessons about capability gaps, which we have just been discussing, and we know that we need to address them. We learned the value of minimising civilian casualties and the positive effect that that had on the politics of the operation, both inside and outside the Council. You might want to ask this of the Defence Secretary, who has just been to Libya, but for the post-conflict stabilisation I expect us to find that the fact that there was very little damage to civilian infrastructure, at least caused by NATO, will be an important point in the stabilisation of Libya and getting it back on to stable government and stable Government services afterwards. Those things were perhaps some quick lessons from my side.
Q193 Chair: What lessons would it be a mistake to draw from Libya?
Mariot Leslie: It would be a mistake to rush to conclusions about the role of any one ally in this particular operation.
Chair: The role of any one ally.
Mariot Leslie: The role of any one single ally and what political or military role they did or did not play, because you cannot draw those conclusions from a single operation.
Mr Havard: Having the French fully integrated into the NATO process clearly helped, for example-if you compare the situation now to Bosnia, which you were talking about-with the speed of ability to make decisions.
Q194 Chair: Air Marshal Harper, is there anything that you would like to add?
Air Marshal Harper: Yes. I think lesson number one, which is the positive one, is that NATO works. It should quite rightly be seen as the gold standard for a military alliance, and it has command and control mechanisms that match that gold standard. I would offer that I think the new NATO command structure will improve on even that.
I would certainly agree with Ambassador Leslie’s point about it being a mistake to consider particularly the contribution, or lack of it, by any one particular ally, because what I noted throughout this campaign was an extraordinarily constructive approach by all NATO allies. Even those who had political difficulties in their home environments were extraordinarily helpful when it came to mounting these operations, so even those not on the front line were backfilling slots in headquarters, providing people down to the air operations centre at Poggio Renatico and helping in other ways. I thought that that was extremely good and, indeed, the constructive sense that I have described is a way ahead perhaps for the alliance to be able to operate in the future.
On the perhaps negative side, Libya has highlighted capability gaps. The gap in our ability to project a mission at this sort of range in these circumstances can only be filled at the moment by those capabilities held by the United States. As we described earlier, there are steps in place to try to address those gaps, and they are being given the right sort of priority.
The lessons-learned process itself will be conducted by the joint alliance lessons-learned centre in Portugal, which is an Allied Command Transformation organisation. I am confident that it will indeed tackle every single part of the system in drawing together its conclusions. I know that the SACEUR, Admiral Stavridis, and the SACT, General Abrial, are keen that there should be an efficient and swift process, so that we do not lose momentum in learning these lessons and applying their results.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed to both of you for your evidence. I am sorry that it has gone on for far longer than I expected, but it has been extremely interesting and helpful.
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