Winning: The Short, Nasty War In Libya


November 2, 2011: The war in Libya is over, after 36 weeks of violence. A month after the fighting began, the UN voted to back foreign air strikes to prevent the Libyan government from attacking its own people. NATO (initially Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Britain the U.S.), and some Arab nations (initially Qatar), joined this effort, which lasted 32 weeks. NATO ended its military participation at the end of October. France, Britain and the U.S. provided most of the aircraft.

Some 26,300 sorties were flown, with 36 percent of them combat operations. These attacked 5,900 targets, destroying over 400 artillery pieces (guns or rocket launchers) and over 600 armored vehicles. Most sorties were for reconnaissance, refueling and transport. NATO also maintained a naval blockade, and an unofficial training and coordination effort in Libya itself (using mainly commandos and contractors). The foreign assistance effort cost the nations involved over $4 billion. The NATO air support was critical for the rebel victor. The rebels had few trained soldiers, and the government had lots of armored vehicles and artillery. NATO aircraft found the government armor and artillery quickly, and destroyed most of it before it could be used on the rebels. The constant presence of NATO bombers and surveillance aircraft overhead demoralized the government troops, and inspired the rebels.

The new Libyan government estimates that 25,000 Libyans were killed and 60,000 wounded during the war. Several hundred thousand were forced from their homes because of the fighting, although most were able to return to homes that were still intact (although often looted.) The biggest loss was in oil production. At the beginning of the war, Libya was shipping 1.6 million barrels of oil a day (worth over $120 million to the government). By the end of the war, production was down to 60,000 barrels a day. It will take two years to regain pre-war production levels. In the meantime, Libya will lose over $50 billion in income. While that can be covered via loans against future production, there is also several billion dollars in war damage that has to be repaired.

Most of the weapons and equipment of the Libyan armed forces were destroyed or stolen (from abandoned or captured bases). Many of these weapons were smuggled out of the country, where they will cause more death and mayhem. The government security forces (secret police and army) were largely destroyed, with the personnel being killed, captured or deserting. Libyan dictator Moamar Kaddafi, three of his sons and several senior aides were killed by the end of the war. Several thousand more people may die in the aftermath of the war. Some will be Kaddafi supporters with too many enemies. Others will be victims of factional fighting that is sure to accompany the formation of a new government and holding elections.



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