Libya: Trapped In Tripoli

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August 16, 2011: The rebel NTC (National Transitional Council) is gaining more recognition overseas, but less at home. The NTC is trying to reorganize itself, in order to avoid a civil war after Kaddafi is defeated. The NTC faces many problems beyond the many tribal, political and religious divisions. For one thing, there has been no party politics in Libya for over 40 years. Lots of inexperienced people seeking power is not a good thing. There has been no free economy either, which can also cause lots of problems. Add to that an expected three years of poverty (as the economy is rebuilt), and you have a recipe for all sorts of trouble. A basic problem here is that the oil industry has been damaged. Currently, only about 100,000 barrels a day are being pumped. Normally, it’s 1.6 million barrels a day, and industry experts believed it will take up to three years to regain that level of production. In the meantime, lots of Libyans will see their standard of living decline, and they won’t be happy about that.

After rebels took control of the center of the coastal city of Zawiya (population 290,000, 50 kilometers west of Tripoli) two days ago, government reinforcements arrived and pushed the rebels back to the outskirts. Zawiya controls the road from Tripoli to Tunisia. This is a key supply line for Kaddafi, and the rebels have made it largely unusable.  But more cars and small trucks are seen leaving Tripoli and heading west, for Tunisia. These the NATO bombers leave alone, as they are generally full of civilians fleeing, either to Tunisia, or to rebel held territory.

There are growing food, energy and consumer goods shortages in Tripoli, especially compared to the rebel capital in the eastern city of Benghazi. There, food is abundant, and much cheaper than in Tripoli. There is no violence or threat of attack. People in Tripoli know all about this, and Kaddafi has to cope with a growing morale problem among his supporters, and the many Tripoli residents who are neutral (a shrinking group), or back the rebels. There are about a million people in Tripoli, and most of them are angry at someone (either Kaddafi or the rebels).

Kaddafi has apparently lost his effort to maintain the morale of his combat forces. The daily attacks from NATO aircraft, and the growing competence of the rebel fighters has led most government troops to reconsider their loyalties. Desertions are more frequent, and the growing number of casualties is a constant reminder of how bad things are. Food and medical supplies can enter Tripoli, so Kaddafi troops have more wounded to contemplate, and less ammo and weapons to fight with. NATO bombers have concentrated on army vehicles and supplies (especially fuel and ammo). Troops still loyal to Kaddafi now have a much harder time moving, and have to watch their ammo expenditure, lest they run out at a critical moment. More rebels speak confidently of capturing Tripoli within a month.

NTC representatives have reopened the Libyan embassy in the United States.

August 15, 2011: Berber led rebels advancing from the mountains south of Tripoli, captured the town of Garyan (population 85,000 and 75 kilometers south of Tripoli).

Libyan Interior Minister Nassr al Mabrouk Abdullah fled to Egypt today, using his private aircraft, and taking nine family members with him. He arrived on a tourist visa, but Mabrouk is apparently seeking political asylum.

August 14, 2011: Kaddafi forces fired a SCUD ballistic missile from outside Sirte to rebel held Brega. The missile missed, and landed in the desert outside the town, injuring no one. This was the first time Kaddafi forces had fired one of their hundreds of SCUD missiles. This is not surprising, as the missiles require at least half an hour to get fueled and otherwise prepared for launch. Trained crews are needed to do this, and there’s always the risk that NATO surveillance will stop you before you fire the missile.

August 8, 2011: The NTC fired all its government ministers and is searching for new, and more effective, ones.

 

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