August 23, 2011: Many Kaddafi backers continue to fight. Rebels driving from Misarata to Tripoli have been fired on by artillery in Zlitan (100 kilometers east of Triploi). Government forces have fought hard to keep the rebels out of Zlitan, but now rebels control most of it. Kaddafi’s green flag can still be seen flying over several Tripoli neighborhoods, but the rebels seem to control about 90 percent of the city. Kaddafi’s flag still flies in the town of Shaba, south of Tripoli (a stronghold of the Kaddafi tribe) and Sirte (east of Misarata, and another Kaddafi tribe stronghold). About ten percent of the Libyan population benefitted from helping Kaddafi run his dictatorship. Most of these people are wives and children of the men who actually terrorized the population. These guys are generally known, and have a lot of lose if taken alive by the rebels. A lot of Libyans are out for revenge, but many of their targets are heavily armed, and very dangerous when cornered. Deals will have to be made, and many lower ranking Kaddafi thugs will probably get off via an amnesty deal. But several dozen senior officials face prosecution, or worse.
Rebel commanders have brought over 4,000 fighters into Tripoli so far, including some who sneaked in before the city fell. There are also hundreds of armed, pro-rebel civilians in Tripoli. But there are also thousands of pro-Kaddafi civilians who were armed by the government over the last five months. While many of these guns are being hidden, to be sold later, a lot of them are being used. Many families and neighborhoods are known to be pro-Kaddafi, and to have benefitted by decades of Kaddafi rule. Dealing with surrenders and restoring public order will be a major problem in Tripoli. There are a lot of scared, and armed, Kaddafi supporters here. The more notorious ones (usually the wealthiest as well) are getting out, fleeing to Tunisia, Algeria and beyond.
NATO bombers have been hitting about twenty targets a day in the last few days. With the end in sight, people have been more willing to talk about foreign advisors on the ground. There are apparently several hundred of them. In addition to some special operations troops, there are personnel from intelligence agencies, diplomats and civilian contractors. Everyone entered (by land from Egypt or by air from Europe) as civilians, and kept a low profile. Most of the foreigners were in Benghazi, to advise the rebel high command and coordinate economic and military aid. Others were with rebel combat units, helping to control air power and provide some professional military advice. Over the half the air support was non-combat. The most important aspect of this was aerial surveillance of government and rebel forces. Keeping an eye on the government troops was necessary to provide targets for the bombers. Tracking the rebels was essential to prevent rebels from firing on each other and giving the rebel high command an idea of what they had, where it was and what was possible.
August 22, 2011: Tanks and trucks mounting heavy machine-guns came out Kaddafi’s compound and fired on approaching rebel fighters, forcing the rebels to pull back. Kaddafi’s eldest son (chief aide and heir),
Seif al Islam, who was reported captured yesterday, appeared in front of foreign journalists, obviously not a prisoner. Mohammed Kaddafi was also reported captured yesterday, but has also apparently escaped.
August 21, 2011: Rebel convoys entered Tripoli from several directions and were cheered by civilians in most neighborhoods. The rebels had been stalled 30-40 kilometers outside the city, but the soldiers facing them suddenly broke (fleeing or surrendering), allowing the rebels to head right into the city. Most government security forces inside the city fled at the sight of the rebels. But some troops kept fighting, the most lethal being individual snipers. This was apparently all part of a plan developed by NATO and rebels inside and outside the city. All these forces coordinated their efforts to trigger a collapse of government resistance inside the city. A key achievement was the help of pro-rebel officers and troops in the base of the 32nd Brigade, 25 kilometers outside Tripoli. Rebels quickly captured the base, and destroyed the brigade (commanded by one of Kaddafi’s sons). The 32nd Brigade had been very active in killing civilians in Misarata.
August 20, 2011: Rebels and pro-rebel civilians began fighting government forces inside Tripoli. This was generally successful, forcing government troops back to key locations (military barracks, media centers and so on.) Late in the day, the government controlled cell phone company broadcast a text message to all its customers, urging them to go out and fight the rebels. This had no apparent effect.
August 19, 2011: Heavy fighting led to the capture of
Zlitan (160 kilometers east of Tripoli), and Zawiya (30km to the west).
Meanwhile, another major Kaddafi supporter, former prime minister
Abdessalam Jalloud, fled Tripoli and surrendered to rebels outside the city.
August 18, 2011: Numerous large explosions were heard in Tripoli, as NATO smart bombs hit military targets, and buildings being used as headquarters. NATO was apparently getting more and better target information, and it appeared to be timely and accurate. Government troops appear more distressed, and prominent pro-Kaddafi families are fleeing the city. Mercenary troops Kaddafi had hired are also leaving, apparently suspecting that there is little more money to be made fighting for the Libyan dictator. Rebels have entered the main oil shipment port,
Zawiya, which is west of Tripoli. With this, rebels have largely isolated Tripoli from resupply, and shortages are rapidly growing in the city of two million (about 30 percent of Libya’s population.) In response, Kaddafi called for an immediate ceasefire and peace negotiations. The rebels ignored this.
August 17, 2011: Rebel forces have broken out of Misarata, the major city west of Tripoli, and are heading for Tripoli.