What are British commandos doing in Libya?

British special task units totaling several dozen servicemen are in Libya, providing military assistance to the rebels, the Daily Mail newspaper reports.

According to the official version, the British special task units are in Libya to help adjust air strikes on Libyan targets from the ground, carry out reconnaissance, locate Libyan arms depots and just be on standby to rescue pilots if a coalition plane is shot down over the territory controlled by supporters of Muammar Gaddafi.

British commandos have reportedly been in Libya for about three weeks now, covertly operating in Colonel Gaddafi’s rear. A senior British Defense Department official, who for some reason wished to remain anonymous, has argued that the British military presence on the Libyan soil, which many condemned as illegal, does not contradict UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya.

But considering that the resolution sanctions no military action beyond the no-fly zone, what are British commandos doing in Libya? Prime Minister David Cameron, explaining the aims of the anti-Libyan coalition in the House of Commons this week, made clear that a ground offensive in Libya was out the question.

“In line with UN resolution 1973, there were two aims to these strikes. The first was to suppress the Libyan air defences and make possible the safe enforcement of a no-fly zone. The second was to protect civilians from attack by the Gaddafi regime,” said David Cameron.

And yet, British commandos are already in Libya and they may be assigned new tasks on top of those already mentioned. For now, it looks like these new tasks have not been clearly determined. The point is that a group of Western countries that launched massive air and missile strikes against Libya on Saturday seem to have no clear-cut strategy or action plan save for pouring tons of rockets on Libyan soil. Quite evidently, if the Muammar Gaddafi regime holds out, which may well be the case, things may take a pretty awkward turn for the political and military leadership of the anti-Libyan coalition.

Some analysts assume that in the latter scenario, the coalition may push for a ground offensive as a last resort. And then, the British special task units in Libya will be extremely helpful. The ground offensive will require a new UN Security Council resolution. Meanwhile, chances that this third resolution on Libya will ever leave the walls of the UN headquarters in New York look pretty slim as more and more countries, including in the Arab world, are raising their voices against the foreign military intervention in Libya.

Inside the United States, criticism has been mounting from both Republican and Democrat politicians of President Barack Obama’s decision to take part in the operation against Libya without seeking Congress approval first. But suppose he did, the prospect of getting the country involved in yet another war in an Islamic country, parallel to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will hardly make U.S. lawmakers happy.

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