The decision by France and Britain to use the helicopters signals a frustration with the current strategy – fighter jets, no ground troops – which has been unable to bring any sort of conclusion to the conflict, the Guardian reports. The helicopters are a compromise between that and the use of ground troops, which would be opposed by virtually all parties involved.
The decision to deploy the helicopters is a clear recognition that high-level bombing from 15,000 feet cannot protect civilians who continue to be attacked by rocket and mortar shells. It brings the Nato offensive much closer to the ground at a time when Britain and other Nato countries are insisting they have no intention of sending in troops.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé was quick to defend against accusations that it was overstepping the outlines of the foreign intervention. He said "the helicopters would not be used to deploy ground forces in Libya and that the decision to send them was fully in line with the UN security council resolution mandating attacks in Libya."
The decision to approve the use of the helicopters was a controversial one in Britain. France announced that the two countries would be providing attack helicopters before Britain had announced it to the public or received government approval for the move, the Associated Press reports.