Aerospace Forum: The NATO mission in Libya

Lt General Charles Bouchard outlined the strategy for the Libyan operations in 2011 and how they evolved during the campaign.

Charles Bouchard at Aerospace Forum 2012

Lt General Charles Bouchard describing the  NATO military mission in Libya.


The operation did not involve boots on the ground, with the exception of the Libyan anti-government forces of course, who followed no unified command structure, making them difficult to communicate with. Lt General Charles Bouchard is ex Deputy Commander of NORAD and Commander Joint Task Force Unified Protector.

Lessons that Gen Bouchard applied from Iraq and Afghanistan included understanding that breaking the country’s infrastructure would mean having to rebuild it: that if a hearts and minds campaign was needed, the operation would be failing; and the need to avoid strategic mistakes such as seriously offending religious and cultural sensibilities.

Not everything went totally smoothly of course and there were several issues the General, now retired, shared with the forum. One was that some of the command staff deployed on two-week rotations arrived in theatre without adequate training. Secrecy classification was a problem with a coalition of 28 NATO nations plus four partners, including Sweden. Standards such as “NATO Secret” could not be applied due to national restrictions so the General said he could sometimes get more information on events from the Al-Jazeera website than from his own intelligence assets. The General’s worst day was when the Gadaffi regime “got into my IO (information operations) cycle” by claiming many civilians had died in a strike that killed Khamis Gadaffi. The government spokesman appeared with photographs of dead children and briefly scored a propaganda victory. In general NATO policy was to issue the simple facts as soon as they could be established after a mission.
Stressing interoperability as the key to future missions, Gen Bouchard offered his three “Kindergarten rules” for coalition operations- get along with the others in the schoolyard, share your toys and always take a nap in the afternoon.