Libya: Closing In

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July 6, 2011: Rebels are now 80 kilometers from Tripoli on the coast road. Berber rebels, advancing out of the mountains south of the city, are a little closer. But there are still active groups of pro-Kaddafi troops in Misarata, 200 kilometers east of Tripoli, and to the south, in the desert. There are pro-Kaddafi terrorists in the rebel capital of Benghazi, over a thousand kilometers east of Tripoli. While the rebels get better organized and professional each week, they are still far from being a professional military force. The rebels are still several separate armed groups, with widely varying (in terms of quality) leadership, and only united in their desire to drive out or kill Kaddafi supporters.

NATO is playing hide-and-seek with pro-Kaddafi forces. Using a combination of reports from rebels and pro-rebel civilians, plus UAV and satellite photos and electronic eavesdropping, intelligence analysts seek to keep NATO warplanes and helicopter gunships supplied with targets. The Kaddafi forces know that contact with rebels can quickly bring a smart bomb, so this is avoided. Kaddafi forces depend on ambush, artillery (including mortars and rockets) as well as land mines to slow down the rebel advance and inflict casualties. But the rebels get closer and closer to Tripoli. At the current rate of advance, the rebels will be in Tripoli by the end of the month. That will be a big blow to the morale of the pro-Kaddafi forces, and might cause a sharp increase in desertions. Already, more and more government officers and troops are simply giving up, often before rebel fighters even get close.

NATO runs 150-200 air sorties a day, a third of them bombers or gunships. Most of the rest are recon and intelligence aircraft. The rebel groups are getting better at reporting their positions to NATO, and avoiding friendly fire incidents. There have been fewer of these every month.

Inside Tripoli, Kaddafi loyalists try, with increasing difficulty, to suppress open support for the rebels. Despite this, more anti-Kaddafi graffiti appears, and even some small pro-rebel demonstrations. There is also a lot of anger at the growing shortages of everything. Food is getting in, but not much of anything else. Kaddafi still pays wages to the huge civil service, as he still controls the banking system, But there is less and less to buy. The Red Cross can get around the country with food and medicine, and the Kaddafi thugs have been leaving these convoys alone.

The NATO fleet has eliminated Kaddafi's navy and the coastal waters are safe enough for regular supply shipments, and the movement of personnel. Tripoli, and other western coastal towns held by Kaddafi forces, are still blockaded. Only food and medicine goes in. NATO warships have been ordered to be on the lookout for Iranian attempts to get Iranian weapons and terrorist specialists (Quds force) into Kaddafi held territory. Iran is believed to have promised Kaddafi aid.

Kaddafi has been calling in favors from foreign politicians he has lavished money and other favors on in the past. This includes many African governments, and Russia (who has sold Kaddafi billions of dollars in weapons over the decades). Kaddafi has his foreign allies applying pressure on the rebels to accept a peace deal that leaves Kaddafi in Libya and exonerated for all his crimes. The rebels have refused this and, at most, will allow Kaddafi to flee the country. Since Kaddafi is now (since June 27th) under indictment as a war criminal, there are few places he could go. Russia has mentioned a willingness to accept Kaddafi, if NATO will hold its fire as he is flown out. At least this is what the Russians are reporting. Officially, Kaddafi is fighting on and is confident of ultimate victory. After a few days of diplomatic pressure, most African states backed away from supporting Kaddafi.

Kaddafi still has loyalists (over ten percent of the population), and several active groups of armed men, all over the country. Some are members of the secret police, some are simply getting paid and others fear retribution if Kaddafi is overthrown. There are even a few true-believers in Kaddafi's version of the "Arab revolution." But mostly there are a lot of armed Kaddafi supporters who fear payback for their barbaric behavior before the rebellion that began in February. The Kaddafi supporters were more savage once the armed rebellion began. Murdering and raping civilians has been a common tactic with Kaddafi forces, and that sort of activity is well known to most Libyans. Many of the rebels want the Kaddafi thugs brought to justice. Some of the thugs are already fleeing, but that is difficult to do as Kaddafi and his killers are surrounded.

July 4, 2011: In Benghazi, a car bomb was found, and disabled, outside a hotel used by foreign journalists. The vehicle has been in a parking lot for weeks, indicating that those who put it there had fled, or been killed, before they could use it. There had been at least five similar bombs found around the city in the last two months. Kaddafi might still have a few terrorist supporters in Benghazi, and these are being sought.

July 3, 2011: Turkey has stopped criticizing NATO support for the rebels (as a "war on Islam" thing) and backed the rebels themselves. This came about because there was not a lot of popular support for Kaddafi in Turkey, and the other NATO allies were questioning Turkey's continued presence in NATO. Turkey has promised over $200 million in aid for the rebels.

July 1, 2011: Moamar Kaddafi has threatened terrorist attacks on Europe. He has carried out such attacks in the past. But now, his reputation and resources are in tatters, and few take his threats seriously.

 

 

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