Denmark criticises NATO’s Libya mission

NATO’s lack of military intelligence hampered Denmark’s bombing campaign in Libya in 2011, according to a confidential report

The Danish Air Force had insufficient intelligence to guide its bombing campaign in Libya last year under NATO leadership, according to a confidential report obtained by Politiken newspaper through a freedom of information request.

According to Politiken, the report by the Air Force Tactical Command (FTK) criticised NATO’s lack of military intelligence that meant that Denmark could not accurately assess the level of collateral damage inflicted on the civilian population as a result of its bombing campaign. As a result, Denmark had to slow down its bombing campaign.

The problems arose after the Air Force was moved from American to NATO leadership on 31 March 2011. Before the switchover, Denmark's missions were guided by the US, which had superior military intelligence.

“NATO’s command structure was not ready to lead an operation such as Operation Unified Protector when the Libya operation began,” the FTK’s report said. “NATO did not have sufficient access to tactical information to support the operation.”

Denmark contributed six F-16 fighter jets and about 110 staff to the mission against Libya from the Italian air base on the island of Sigonella. Over the nest seven months, the Danish jets flew 600 missions and dropped 923 precision bombs.

NATO's problems with intelligence gathering are no secret and NATO’s secretary general, and Denmark’s former PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has publicly acknowledged the problem.

“We recognised that we need more of that capacity,” Rasmussen said in May when signing new contracts for drones. “We are now closing that hole.”

All 28 NATO countries have helped finance the five new drones that will cost over ten billion kroner, including needed support ground staff.

Denmark initially refused to contribute to the program, the Alliance Ground System, but later caved in after pressure from the US.

Denmark's involvement in NATO arguably surpasses the country's small size. In the spring, Denmark spearheaded efforts to raise 100 million kroner to fund the Afghan security force following the withdrawal of allied ISAF forces by 2015.

Denmark's current enthusiasm to participate in NATO missions may have be tempered in the future, however, due to the 2.7 billion kroner of cuts that the government is currently making to the defence budget.