The U.S. was the backbone of NATO's Libya operation

Even as Washington put a European mask of command on the operation — an effort described as “leading from behind” — shortages in allied intelligence-gathering aircraft, aerial refueling tankers and precision-guidance kits for bombs proved the United States remained the backbone of any NATO offensive…

But American and alliance officials acknowledged that a stinging critique, issued this summer by Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary at the time, still echoed. He warned of a two-tiered alliance in which some allies could fight, and some really could not…

The shortages in the proper equipment, military skills and political commitment that Mr. Gates underscored are, indeed, considered a warning to the alliance. NATO does not have a roster of experienced officers to do its own targeting — the essence of successful air warfare. Only the United States, Britain and France have targeteers up to modern standards…

Shortages in intelligence-gathering aircraft — both manned and remotely piloted — also revealed a near United States monopoly on these technologies, although NATO is considering purchasing drones for itself.