Tripoli, 31 July:
The British government has revealed that UK . . .[restrict]airforce personnel flew armed US Predator drones in the campaign to stop Qaddafi preying on his own people.
In London, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Lord Astor explained that the UK government did not use armed drones against terrorist suspects outside of Afghanistan: “However, UK personnel flew armed, remotely-piloted air systems missions against Qaddafi’s forces in Libya in 2011, in support of the NATO humanitarian mission, authorised under UNSCR resolution 1973.”
What the minister did not reveal is on what sort of missions the British piloted the deadly drones, which have been used by the Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan to assassinate terror suspects with apparently clinical precision.
The US took strategic command and provided most of the military support from the opening of the Libyan campaign, code-named Operation Odyssey Dawn, launched on 19 March. However, American involvement was scaled down considerably from 1 April, when NATO forces took charge of the international coalition of military support to the Libyan revolution.
President Barack Obama had promised from the outset that America’s role would be limited. Once NATO took command of the operations, the US switched its operations primarily to support.
This, it is now clear, included providing Predator drones that were flown by British RAF personnel, who were on an exchange programme in the United States. The Pentagon has revealed that from April 2011, 145 air strikes were conducted by Predator drones . It is not known how many of these were operated by the RAF. [/restrict]