Libya: Defiance


September 13, 2011: Moamar Kaddafi is believed to have a few thousand armed followers left in the country. They are concentrated in Sirte and Qasr bu Hadi. But there are several towns in western Libya that have a few dozen, or a few hundred armed Kaddafi supporters each. In these places, the armed men generally remain hidden, and stay that way because most residents were always Kaddafi supporters. Rebels are rolling into these places and seeking to negotiate long-term peace with the locals. This approach may unravel as the factions in the NTC (National Transitional Council) battle each other. The democratic factions want elections and a free society. Islamic conservative factions, who are a minority, want a religious dictatorship and are willing to fight for it. This could get ugly. There are still Kaddafi loyalists who are willing to grab their hidden weapons and fight again, perhaps even alongside one of the NTC factions. Achieving long-term law and order will not be easy. Rebel fighters expect the fighting in Sirte and Qasr bu Hadi to last another week, at least.

Kaddafi still has a satellite TV station in Syria (Arrai television) that broadcasts his messages. Via Arrai, Kaddafi regularly calls for his followers to keep fighting. Recent messages have not been video or audio media of Kaddafi himself, but rather written messages read by political supporters in Syria.

Kaddafi’s use of black mercenaries from the south has led to many rebel units going after all black Africans in the country. Blacks have long been looked down upon and discriminated against in Libya (as is common throughout Arab North Africa), and the hostility has increased because of the growing number of illegal migrants from Black Africa, passing through Libya on their way to Europe.

Now that most of the country is free of fighting, more people can get around and report what they see. Moreover, the rebels are no longer the anointed (by the media) valiant underdogs. Thus you can report nasty things rebel forces did. This is a common pattern, both the style of reporting and the things that are now being reported. While much was always made of how Kaddafi’s forces attacked civilians and basically murdered a lot of people, the media ignored rebels executing most of the Kaddafi fighters they captured. It will eventually be reported that the executions were the result of the rebels not being prepared (as untrained and poorly led as they were) to deal with prisoners. There was also the anger at mercenaries, who were hired in part because these foreigners had fewer problems with killing Libyan civilians. After a few months, stories will appear giving more accurate numbers on actual deaths. Given that the Kaddafi men had more artillery and, for the early months of the rebellion, armed men in action, they killed more people, most of them civilians.

The rebels have still not organized many artillery units, and depend on NATO smart bombs (which are much more likely to avoid civilian casualties.) Thus the remaining Kaddafi forces are using civilians (or women and teenage fighters who are not holding weapons) as human shields. This works against NATO, but not so much with the rebels.

In the last week, over 30 senior members of the Kaddafi government have arrived, via several armed convoys, in Niger. There, the government has not given these refugees any special status, but has not limited their movement. Thus these Kaddafi associates (including one son, Saadi) can move on, and some probably will. Some sub-Saharan African nations have offered Kaddafi and his henchmen refuge. Some senior Kaddafi officials have been captured, and they are generally unapologetic and defiant. During his decades in power, Kaddafi was very good to a minority (10-20 percent) of the population, and many of these people will remain loyal to their benefactor for a long time.  

Egypt reports increased seizures of Libyan weapons being smuggled across the border. It’s long been reported that many of the numerous Kaddafi era weapons storage sites were looted. Now Libyan smugglers are trying to get these weapons into neighboring countries (Egypt is the closest) and sell them. There are Islamic radical groups in Egypt (and throughout North Africa) who are willing to pay. Egypt does not want these Libyan weapons on the loose, because there are Islamic radical groups in Egypt who have no problem attacking Egyptian targets. The best customers for these weapons are Hamas, in Gaza. For that reason, Egypt has tightened border security on the Gaza border. But some of this stuff, particularly the portable anti-aircraft missile systems, are going to make it through.

September 12, 2011: There was a big explosion at an ammunition storage site near the main airport outside Tripoli. People working at the site report that a lot of the ammo has been stored in the open. Thus the hot sun makes the munitions unstable and liable to detonation.

September 11, 2011: The NTC has moved to Tripoli, and announced that there would soon be elections. No date was given.

September 7, 2011: The NTC has formed special intelligence and combat units to hunt down former dictator Moamar Kaddafi and his senior aides. Kaddafi is believed to still be in Libya. This special force is apparently working with NATO intelligence forces, which have special aircraft monitoring most of the country, and some special operations troops on the ground. The U.S. has warned African nations not to offer Kaddafi sanctuary, as he is being sought by war-crimes investigators and subject to international sanctions.





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