The European Union is seeking to utilise the humanitarian cover of the fate of the besieged city of Misrata to send ground troops to Libya under its command. The operation could be mounted within a matter of days. In a reversal of previous policy, the German government of Angela Merkel has offered to play the leading military role.
The EU set up a military mission (EUFOR) ostensibly to back humanitarian aid efforts in Libya on April 1, giving the United Nations a four-month window to call on it to intervene. Misrata, or Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, looks set to be the initial focus of an operation that can then be easily expanded. The city has suffered heavy shelling for several weeks, though last week it received more than 600 tons of World Food Program food—enough to feed over 40,000 people for a month—and Turkey has already mounted efforts to evacuate civilians.
The €7.9 million EUFOR operation has its headquarters in Rome, under the command of Italian Rear Admiral Claudio Gaudosi. The EU has two battle groups, contingents of about 1,500 troops, ready to deploy at a few days’ notice.