Britain and France Send Military Advisers to Libyan Rebels, Remind Everyone of Vietnam

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Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Following Britain's decision to send military advisers to aid Libyan rebels yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy agreed today to do the same. Sarkozy's decision came after meeting with the insurgent leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil. Britain's cabinet announced the mission after David Cameron urged ministers to pass new measures to break the deadlock in Libya. Both Britain and France insist deploying military advisers is not mission creep from the U.N. no-fly-zone resolution, which prohibits foreign occupation, passed just five weeks ago. They say it's merely to stop the stalemate that has killed hundreds as rebels fight Qaddafi's forces in contested cities like Misurata and Ajdabiya. France claims the number of military liaison officers would be in the single digits and that the mission is to help "organize the protection of the civilian population." Foreign secretary William Hague says the British deployment, which could involve up to twenty advisers, will help the ragtag rebels "improve their military organizational structures, communications and logistics.”

The decision to send military advisers and take sides in a deadlocked civil war is giving British politicians sixties flashbacks, but not the good kind. Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Liberal Democrat leader, said Britain needs to avoid entering into a Vietnam-like military quagmire.

“It must not be seen as a first instalment of further military deployment. Vietnam began with an American president sending military advisers. We must proceed with caution.”

Rebels in contested cities like Misurata are facing cluster bombs and Russian rockets and have been forced to train school teachers and drivers to compete against Qaddafi's snipers. But it's unclear who Europe's military advisers would even be aiding. Libya's deputy foreign minister critiqued Britain's plan as futile:

"This is an impossible mission. To organise who? They [the rebels] are different groups. There is no leader. They are not well-organised, and I am sure it will be a failure," Kaim said.

Advisers From France to Join Britain in Aid of Libya Rebels [NYT]
British troops go to Libya amid 'Vietnam' warnings [Telegraph UK]
Libya warns against UK military advisers [Al Jazeera]
Life on the Rebel Side of the Crosshairs [Der Spiegel]
Related: Libya’s Rebel Army Doesn’t Know Who’s the Boss