Libya: Traitor Or Martyr?


July 29, 2011: Rebel fighters are advancing from Misarata to Ziltan, along the coast road. Further to the east, rebels are clearing government troops out of the port town of Brega. South of Tripoli are advancing on Bir Ghanam and Garyan. On the Tunisian border, rebels captured the town of Ghazaya, opening up a supply route to Tunisia, and denying one to Kaddafi.

The NATO air effort has flown some 17,000 sorties since March. Coordination with rebel ground forces gets better every week. This has made it possible for rebel units to quickly call for NATO airstrikes against the occasional attempt by government forces to push the rebels back. This has happened several times in the last week. Meanwhile, NATO warplanes continue to seek out and destroy Kaddafi ammo dumps and bases in Tripoli and anywhere else they can be found. Thus Kaddafi suffers irreplaceable losses every day.

July 28, 2011: Rebel military commander, general Abdel Fattah Younis was shot dead, along with two of his aides. This happened after Younis was ordered back to Benghazi to discuss the military situation with the rebel leadership. The rebels say that Younis was killed by pro-Kaddafi gunmen. Younis was also reported killed on the 24th, but this proved false, and was mocked by Younis himself.  But now he is really dead, and no one is sure why.

Younis was always suspect. He defected from the Kaddafi government (where he had been Interior Minister) last February and was soon appointed military leader of the rebels. Younis called on military personnel to defect to the rebels. But at the time he was reported killed, there were also rumors Younis had been arrested and accused to aiding Kaddafi forces. Kaddafi associates have long hinted at this, which was always dismissed as an attempt to create divisions within the rebel movement. All this could get ugly. Younis belonged to the Obeidi tribe, one of the largest and most powerful in eastern Libya. Some Obeidi tribal leaders are demanding to know exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, Kaddafi needs all the help he can get.  Kaddafi only controls is the territory (shrinking daily) around Tripoli, plus a few small areas throughout the country where he has armed supporters who are still fighting. Captured Kaddafi troops continue to report declining morale. NATO electronic intelligence reports frequent desperate calls from Kaddafi commanders, complaining about shortages (especially of fuel and ammo) and poor morale. The food, fuel and ammo shortages are common throughout the Tripoli area. While the NATO naval blockade is allowing food imports, ammo and fuel is kept out. The naval blockade is pretty tight, and all fuel and ammo Kaddafi is getting comes in via truck from Tunisia and Algeria. NATO has criticized both nations for that smuggling. Tunisia has increased patrols on its borders, but Algeria (whose government is still on good terms with Kaddafi) has simply pled an inability to close its huge border with Libya.

Rebel leaders are split on the subject of amnesty and leniency for Kaddafi and his supporters. Not offering  some kind of amnesty simply encourages Kaddafi and his key aides to fight on. But amnesty offends many rebel leaders who have long suffered at the hands of Kaddafi police. Moreover, Kaddafi continues to behave badly. The latest atrocities involve setting up headquarters and bases for his troops in hospitals and other clearly civilian structures. NATO has warned Kaddafi to stop doing this. Kaddafi ignores these threats. Meanwhile, the pro-amnesty rebels leaders are gaining ground as the war grinds on. Many Libyans are even willing to support Kaddafi going "into exile" inside Libya. Meanwhile, Kaddafi refuses to negotiate directly with the NTC (National Transitional Council). But if the NTC simply announces amnesty or leniency, such direct talks won't be necessary. Many Kaddafi officials have already defected.  

There are also shortages in rebel territory. That's because armed Kaddafi supporters are still wandering around the desert area where the oil fields and pipelines are. Although these small groups of men are acting mainly as bandits, they are dangerous enough to scare off the foreign workers who make up the bulk of the technical staff for Libyan oil operations. Meanwhile, the NTC is obtaining more cash and credit with which to buy and import fuel. It will take time to pacify the desert territory containing the oil fields, and to persuade the foreign workers to return.

July 27, 2011:  Britain officially recognized the rebels, by establishing formal diplomatic links with the NTC. Similar recognition by the 30 nations (including the United States and most NATO nations) has made it possible to transfer Libyan government funds, in those countries, to the rebels. Sometimes, the money is actually a loan against Libyan government funds held in foreign banks, pending the conclusion of legal proceedings. Either war, the rebels get badly needed cash.





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