BENGHAZI, Libya — As part of their mission in Libya, the United States and its European allies have unleashed a high-tech assault from the air, deploying AWACS spy planes, unmanned aircraft and sophisticated satellite systems.
So when a rebel officer on the front line called in one recent morning in need of help, Brig. Gen. Abdulsalam al-Hasi had little choice. He walked down the corridor and asked the American and European advisers in his command center to request a NATO airstrike — and then prayed for quick action.
“Sometimes they are late, very late,” said Hasi, shaking his head.
The episode highlights an inescapable dilemma facing the rebel military. After more than three months of stalemate, the rebels’ quest to remove Gaddafi from power depends almost entirely on a NATO force that they do not control and that insists its mandate is restricted to protecting civilians. Rebel commanders can only ask NATO for help, then wait and hope.