Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Whose Boots on What Ground?

Countries often rely on Special Operations Forces [SOF] not just because these folks are capable but because they are covered in secret sauce.  Well, I have had an on-going discussion with some folks on twitter as a result of a statement by the Spanish Minister of Defence:
Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon on Tuesday said Spain would withdraw its troops from Libya as soon as Nato formally announced the end of its operations there. “As soon as Nato formally confirms the end of this operation, Spanish assets will be immediately pulled back to Spanish territory,” she told a press conference.  “This means that all the troops that we have today in Libyan territory will be in Spain before October 31,” she added. “The efforts carried out during these seven months have borne fruit,” Chacon said.
Does this mean that Spain had some SOF in Libya or that this was a mistake, as she was referring to the planes flying out of Sardinia and the troops on Sardinia supporting the sorties?  We have no idea since SOF guys can be quiet and secret.

I would be surprised if Spain had SOF on the ground since it never seemed to be enthusiastic about the mission--Spain did not drop bombs on Libya as far as we can tell, unlike the ambivalent Italians that started out refusing to bomb but then got more invested in the outcome, including the deployment of SOF.  Still, sending SOF is somewhat less risky/less costly/more likely for a hesitant country since the secret sauce allows for deniability. 

Update:  This story clarifies the Spanish situation.  Not only no boots but nice rhetoric to suggest that only 30% of the flights were air strikes so that the effort elsewhere (no fly zone,embargo) was heaps of heavy lifting:
The Minister for Defence said that of all the efforts undertaken by NATO on this operation, only 30% of the missions were launched to neutralise terrestrial targets. The remaining 70% of the missions were related to establishing and maintaining the no-fly zone and the naval arms and mercenaries embargo on Libya. "And the Spanish contribution to these objectives was considerable", said Carme Chacón.
What is the Spanish for punching above one's weight?  Insert smiley face here.  So, Spain is quick to announce a withdrawal of forces that did not take part in the kinetic side of things but in a statement that emphasizes the contribution. 

I am back to feeling comfortable about how predictable this is playing out.

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