Libya: The War In The Shadows

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May 24, 2011: NATO forces have waged a massive, but largely unreported, intelligence campaign against the Kaddafi forces. Using agents on the ground, and data collecting aircraft, satellites and ships, key information is assembled. This includes the identities of locations, individuals and groups that make the Kaddafi combat forces work. Increasingly, these targets are being bombed, and then hit again if BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) reveals that total destruction was not achieved. These attacks have increased in frequency and accuracy in the last few days, and are hitting mobiles units as well as bases (especially those containing vehicles,  warships or fuel and maintenance facilities).

Since taking over (from the U.S.) on March 31st, NATO controlled aircraft have flown 7,585 sorties (38 percent by armed aircraft sent to attack Kaddafi forces or facilities.) The rest of the sorties were for support, mostly intelligence (collecting information) or logistics (aerial refueling or moving supplies). All this averages over 150 sorties per day.

Estimates are that over 20,000 have died so far (in the last three months), most of them civilians killed by Kaddafi forces. Kaddafi's secret police still has members secretly operating in rebel held territory. The phone system is still functioning in most of the country, and this enables these agents to get orders from, and report to, their headquarters in Kaddafi-held Tripoli. The rebels are increasingly effective in hunting down these agents, possibly because of Western intelligence collecting and analysis assistance. Kaddafi loyalists monopolized intelligence work for decades, and the rebels have few people with skills in this area. But the rebels are getting better, as they have access to NATO experts, training and communications and intelligence resources. Kaddafi, on the other hand, is seeing his communications under constant attack. Despite proclamations to the contrary, NATO airstrikes are targeting Kaddafi and his key aides. So Kaddafi has to spend more time just finding a safe place to be.

Outside supporters are encountering more dissention within the rebel movement. This is fairly common during rebellions, as the government side has forged an alliance to get into power in the first place. The rebels are usually numerous factions and interest groups. These were often purposely kept divided by the government to keep the opposition weak. Uniting, while fighting, is always a difficult process, and has been for thousands of years.

Libya is still exporting oil, but only about 20 percent of what it normally ships. Only the rebels are getting oil out of the country, and are having trouble with UN sanctions interfering with the sale (as the UN lawyers did not draw up sanctions that recognized the possibility of a civil war.) Kaddafi's oil minister defected about ten days ago, fleeing to Tunisia and reaching out to his contacts in OPEC and the UN. This exposes more of Kaddafi's overseas assets to detection and seizure.

Kaddafi's effort to portray the fighting as a Western crusade against Islam has been largely dispelled by increasingly vocal rebel support from Moslem states. Turkey has become very active in supporting the rebels and urging Kaddafi to give up.  Quiet efforts continue to convince Kaddafi to make a deal, and surrender. Kaddafi wants immunity, which many nations and pressure groups are not willing to allow. Meanwhile,  the rebels get closer to Tripoli each day, and shortages of everything increase in Kaddafi held territory. Ultimately, Kaddafi is going to lose.

France and Britain are sending attack helicopters, about a dozen from each nation, and apparently to operate off aircraft carriers  and amphibious assault ships (that look, and operate, like small aircraft carriers). This will enable more accurate attacks to be made, but also imply better communications with rebel fighters on the ground.

The rebellion has split the population, with many Libyans sticking with Kaddafi for purely practical (usually economic) reasons. Kaddafi had created an informant system decades ago, that established Kaddafi loyalists at the lowest levels throughout the country. Many of those paid (not always with cash) informants fled the rebels, or changed sides, but in western Libya, this network of Kaddafi loyalists remained largely intact. In the rest of the country, there are pockets of Kaddafi supporters. Rebels are seeking these government loyalists, as many are killers, as well as informers.

Some captured Kaddafi soldiers say they were ordered to rape women as a part of their effort to terrorize the rebels, particularly in the western (but largely rebel-held) city of Misarata. The cell phones of dead and captured Kaddafi soldiers also shows more evidence of widespread rape of women believed connected with the rebels.

 

 

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