NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Three months into an airstrikes campaign that has mainly targeted Gaddafi's stronghold, Tripoli, and it seems that the military operation has started to take its toll on Nato and its members countries. .

Well-placed government officials have reportedly told the Guardian that Britain and its Nato allies no longer believe bombing alone will end the conflict in Libya. The sources added that they have now turned their hopes their hopes on the defection of the Libyan Leader's closest aides, or on the Libyan leader agreeing to flee the country.

The sources also explained that after more than four months of conflict, and with Gaddafi's forces still standing, the possibility of a military victory is now dismissed.

The officials revelations came as yesterday Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the head of the navy, warned that the bombing cannot continue much beyond the summer.

After a few analyst described Stanhope comments, as a direct attack on Downing Street, his supporters and other officials insisted he merely was expressing publicly what many senior defence officials say in private.

Also, after Robert Gates Brussels' speech illustrated last week, it is becoming increasingly clear that the conflict is now having a direct impact on the relations between Washington and its European allies.

As the operation started, and despite the fact that few European countries were involved in the strikes, many still expected the US to deploy its low-flying A10 "tankbusters" and helicopters. The Obama administration however, firmly refused to do so, asking for more European involvement instead.

The UK has deployed four Apaches, the French 12 attack helicopters, but according to Brigadier Benjamin Barry, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the 150 other attack helicopters in Nato all belong to the US Marine Corps.

The outgoing US defence secretary speech thus brought to light the main issues standing between the EU and Nato. While European countries are very proud of Nato, as the organisation enables them to take actions in Europe and throughout the world, thus maintaining European influence on the international sphere, the US is fed up of carrying the bulk of the Alliance' financial costs on its shoulder.

As Gates warned, today's world do not reflect the Cold war configuration of the world, and while certain friendships were seen as essential under the scope of a bi-polar world, new powerful actors have now emerged..

Another problem hindering the Nato operation stem from the rebels fighter's inability to form a co-ordinated and cohesive army that can efficiently undertake manoeuvre operations as few have military experience and training.Also, the rebels lack of heavy weapons which would allow them to break through the Gaddafi's Forces .

Despite Nato's involvement and after British Apaches launched their first attacks on the Misrata front the night before, last Friday, Gaddafi's forces hit back with an unprecedented barrage of thousands of Russian-made Grad rockets. As the Apache were not deployed again on the same day, rebel units suffered 31 deaths and 120 other causalities.

Following the Gaddafi's forces attack and the lack of support from Nato, many rebels are now more suspicious of Nato's motives and question their inability to offer the co-ordinated air support they crucially needed.

Also, it has emerged that Nato has been dropping leaflets threatening Apache air strikes against government forces. The leaflets, each featuring a picture of an Apache helicopter and a burning tank along with the words: "If you go on killing the children and families you will be destroyed", were dropped from a bomb that detonated above no-man's land east of Misrata, raining down over rebel units who had advanced beyond the frontline without telling Nato, proving that once again co-ordination problems interfered with the operation.

Sources talking to the Guardian have also claimed that the coalition forces would now be ready to drop the potential indictment for war crimes against Gaddafi and his inner circle before the international criminal court if the Libyan leader agrees to leave the country and seek sanctuary somewhere else.

As the Alliance becomes more and more divided there is more changes for the operation to once again suffer the costs. Nato it seems just came to realise that the longer the conflict goes on, the greater the risk of civilian casualties.

The bombing of Tripoli by Nato seem to have resulted in the bolstering of anti-coalition feelings in the capital while the more the operation lasts the more there is a risk of both the government and rebels becoming more radicalised and ending up perpetrating war crimes.

Also, the situation in Libya is very different from that of Tunisia and Egypt. While in the two northern African countries, the population raised up against their dictator, Libya is still divided between the pro and the anti Gaddafi camps. Also, while we recurrently receive information on what takes place in Tripoli or in the rebels' strongholds, the situation in the rest of the country remains vague.

If the rebels mange to "free" the country from Gaddafi, nothing says that they will gain the support of the majority of the population and many fears a very unstable transitional phase where different groups will struggle for power. Moreover, if the rebels are responsible for the overthrow of Gaddafi, then Nato will also be held accountable and will have to get heavily involved in the country's reconstruction, which will in the long run require even more resources.

Moreover, observers also fear that fighting could spill over into Tunisia, further increasing instability in the Middle East, and with the current crises in Syria and Yemen, an instable Libya would not be good news.

While it is not clear whether Nato officials are now willing to stop a bombardment campaign and are ready to discuss more flexibly with Gaddafi, it is a shame that negotiation was not actually used before a military involvement. As the Alliance's operation is attacked by all sides, could the Libyan conflict end up costing Nato its future?