Warning of a 'new Vietnam' in Libya as British military advisers go in*
By Tim Shipman and Ian Drury
20th April 2011
Ten strong team will help set up opposition headquarters to fight Gaddafi Government forced to deny claims of 'mission creep'
Officials admit they are sending advisers because war is not going to plan MPs demand recall of Parliament to discuss conflict
David Cameron was accused last night of risking a Vietnam-style quagmire in Libya by sending military advisers to help the country’s rebels.
The first official deployment of troops on the ground marks a significant escalation in the war and immediately invited charges of ‘mission creep’.
A ten-strong team of intelligence, signals and logistics experts will help set up an opposition headquarters to take on Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.
Relief: A Libyan man waves at a fishing boat
carrying evacuees from Misrata at the port of Benghazi
V for Victory: Two young girls
peek through the port hole of the ship as they arrive in Benghazi
The Prime Minister approved the move amid frustration that Nato’s no-fly zone has failed to shield civilians properly.
But Libyan deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim branded the move an ‘act of war’ and senior MPs and former commanders warned of echoes of America’s first steps in Vietnam.
They said Britain risked getting bogged down in Libya for years and one demanded a recall of Parliament.
FOOTBALLER EL HADJI DIOUF IS 'FRIENDS' WITH GADDAFI
Footballer El Hadji Diouf says
he is a 'friend' of Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
The Senegalese striker told Algerian magazine Le Buteur that he had 'always admired' Gaddafi.
In an interview, the 30-year-old Glasgow Rangers player said: 'Gaddafi is a man I've always admired. I'm telling the truth. I know him and I know Seif, his son.
'They are my friends. But frankly I don't really know what is happening in Libya, but it must be very hard for Gaddafi and his family.
'I say that, Inch'Allah (Allah willing) victory will go to whoever is right. I can't be far away from what is happening in these countries. I don't know who is right and who is wrong but it's a shame to see so many victims.'
The striker signed for Rangers on loan in January.
Major General Patrick Cordingley, commander of the Desert Rats in the 1991 Gulf War, said he feared the deployment could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’.
‘The danger of putting advisers on the ground is that you are making it crystal clear that you are supporting the rebels and stoking up a civil war,’ he added.
‘It is sad that we don’t appear to think we can bring sufficient pressure on Gaddafi to leave him isolated without having to up the ante in terms of supporting the opposition with military advice.’
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: ‘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.’ A senior government source denied the claim of mission creep, saying: ‘At most it is mission twitch.’
Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the deployment would be legal under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1973, which authorised ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians.
‘Our officers will not be involved in training or arming the opposition’s fighting forces,’ he said.
‘Nor will they be involved in the planning or execution of the [rebel] military operations or in the provision of any other form of operational military advice.’
Ten service personnel, led by a lieutenant colonel, are ready to deploy within days. His team will include members of all three services, at major or equivalent rank and below. They will carry weapons for protection but will not wear uniforms.
An MoD source said: ‘We’re not teaching them how to attack. We’re teaching them how not to get killed.’
Senior sources have told the Mail that the terms of the military advice will remain under review and concede that further steps may be necessary if the rebels ‘needed another nudge’.
Decimated: Buildings in Misrata have been totally destroyed
after heavy shelling by Gaddafi's men
Footage from one of the British RAF planes
involved in the coordinated attacks this week
The aircraft led coordinated attacks
against Libyan Regime forces communications installations
But defence chiefs acknowledge concerns. ‘To say this is a cloudy area is an understatement,’ said one. ‘Obviously, the better the rebel forces become, the more capable they are of taking the fight to Gaddafi.’
Officials admit Britain is sending military advisers because the war is not going to plan. Sources said there are problems at Nato command where some of Britain’s allies are ‘acting as a brake’ on the targeting of Gaddafi’s forces.
‘We are keeping up a high tempo of operations,’ one source said. ‘I wish we could say the same about some of the others. The French talk a good game but they are not doing as much as people think.’
Libyan rebels running for cover during heavy clashes
with Gaddafi's men in the centre of Misrata
Lord, give me strength: A rebel fighter praying near the front line of Ajdabiyah
MPs demanded Parliament return before next week to discuss the plans. Labour’s David Winnick said: ‘However much one despises the brutality of the Gaddafi clan which rules Libya, the fact remains that there is a danger of mission creep.
‘There is a civil war and this is a big escalation of Britain’s involvement. I don’t think there is an appetite in Britain for military intervention.’
Conservative MP Peter Bone said: ‘We are now looking at regime change and we are clearly backing the rebels. We seem to be taking sides in a civil war. That’s for Parliament to decide.’
SYRIA LIFTS STATE OF EMERGENCY
Syria's government yesterday approved lifting the country's nearly 50-year-old state of emergency to meet a key demand of anti-government protesters.
But it also issued a warning to demonstrators to call off their challenges to President Bashar Assad's rule.
The mixed messages - just hours after security forces stormed an occupied square in Syria's third-largest city - leave doubt about whether authorities will ease their harsh blows against the month-old protests.
Assad's regime has labeled the protest movement an 'armed insurrection' that could give them the cover to continue the crackdown.
Assad told his cabinet to remove the state of emergency last week - but said the move would give protesters no more reason to take to the streets.
BLOODSHED AT YEMEN PROTESTS
At least one person was killed in Yemen today as security opened fire on anti-government protesters in its second largest city.
Thousands of demonstrators were marching in Taiz demanding the president's resignation when security forces opened fire.
Amid rising international concern about the country, the United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet later today to discuss the deteriorating situation.
Rights groups say two months of protests calling for the president to step down have claimed 120 lives.
A government delegation also headed to nearby Abu Dhabi for talks with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council over a proposal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power to his deputy to end the crisis.
It emerged last night that Gaddafi’s billionaire wife could be targeted by a fresh round of UN sanctions over fears that her fortune could be used to pay for the killing of civilians.
Britain has joined forces with France and Germany to call for her to be added to the sanctions blacklist, along with 23 other senior figures and firms linked to the regime.
The dictator’s second wife – nurse Saifa Farkash – is believed to have a fortune of £18billion. She is also believed to own 20tons of gold.
Rebels manning a checkpoint in Misrata,
where hundreds or people have been killed
Rebels in Misrata firing a machine gun on a pick-up truck
during heavy clashes with Gaddafi's men