British Apache and French Tigre attack helicopters flew into action over Libya
yesterday, the Ministry of Defence confirmed last night. As when news of the deployment first broke, parliamentarians and military talking heads have warned that
this is an escalation of the conflict. Some MPs have called for parliament to
debate the issue when it returns from recess on Monday.
NATO commanders are at pains to stress that the scope of the operation has not changed. Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, commander-in-chief of Operation United Protection, told reporters at his
headquarters in Naples.
“It’s an additional capability to pinpoint these [military] vehicles that are much more difficult to see from aircraft at high altitude.”
The line appears to be that this is a natural progression rather than an outright tactical change; the government will probably reiterate the military’s explanation. But many will
only see a conceit to hide the intensification of NATO’s operations, designed to embolden the rebels and secure the removal Colonel Gaddafi.
Given that Gaddafi remains in power, surely a slight tactical change was inevitable? As General Dannatt observed on the Today programme this
morning, the “implied task” of protecting civilians was always regime change. Time, then, to up the ante without altering the ambit of operations. The Household Cavalry remains in
barracks, so is further parliamentary discussion wholly necessary?