Libya: The End Without End

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September 20, 2011: Bani Walid, Sirte and several smaller places remain under the control of Kaddafi supporters. Actually, there is a corridor of land, south from the coastal town of Sirte that is pro-Kaddafi. The remaining Kaddafi troops are determined, and more skilled than their NTC opponents. Crushing this last bit of Kaddafi resistance may take weeks, or longer. Sirte is under attack by some 5,000 NTC fighters, and some of the suburbs have already been captured. Several thousand are besieging Bani Walid, and moving on smaller towns in the far south. While the NTC has more gunmen than the Kaddafi forces, and the benefit of NATO air power, the NTC men are not trained for effectively fighting in urban areas. The only military tactics these guys know they picked up from TV shows or movies. As any military trainer will tell you, that kind of tactical knowledge is worse than none at all. So the NTC forces will have to use NATO bombs, or captured artillery, to destroy or demoralize the enemy, or cut off food and water and wait them out. A week of this fighting has caused several hundred NTC casualties.  

Kaddafi is believed to be in Sirte or Bani Walid and is still in touch with his supporters in Libya via a Syrian satellite TV network that continues to broadcast Kaddafi audio or video messages. The French company that provides satellite broadcast services for the Syrian network refuses to cut the Syrians off.

Meanwhile, the NTC has a bigger problem with the stalled economy and millions of Libyans without income, or electricity or, in some cases, no clean water. Some of these folks are beginning to hold demonstrations, especially in Tripoli. On the plus side, the oil fields were generally protected (less than 15 percent were damaged) by the oil company employees during six months of violence, and production is expected to increase to 500,000 barrels a day (worth $50 million a day) within a month or so. Kaddafi had ordered the oil fields and facilities destroyed, but the oil field employees delayed and sabotaged the placement of explosives, and the rebels managed to capture (quite by chance) the colonel in charge of destroying the oil fields. The men planting the explosives were thrown into confusion, and never received the order to set off the explosives.  

The NTC (National Transitional Council) has not been able to form a new government, with the various tribal, religious (Islamic radical) and political factions not able to agree on who gets what ministry. The original coalition fell apart last month in the wake of the murder of the NTC military leader. It’s still unclear what was going on there. Ministries controlling defense, oil and the interior (national police) are most contentious. But all 36 ministries have some political value.

Many NTC backers hoped the overthrow of the dictatorship would be an opportunity to curb the massive corruption that flourished during the Kaddafi era. But anti-corruption efforts are already running into resistance. The crooks are still out there, even within the NTC, and they are eager to steal.

September 19, 2011: NTC fighters captured Sabha, which is 770 kilometers south of Tripoli and astride the main road going to the Niger border.

September 16, 2011: The UN has transferred Libya’s UN seat to the NTC, and lifted most of the sanctions on Libya. This made it easier for the NTC to get control of over $100 billion worth of frozen Libyan assets.

September 15, 2011: Kaddafi’s son Saadi, and three generals who once served Kaddafi, have requested asylum in Niger. The four, and their bodyguards, has driven 1,600 kilometers to reach Niger. Such convoys have been arriving since about a week ago, and continue to. The Niger government has been taking good care of the Kaddafi officials who have shown up, but have not granted asylum to anyone yet.

 

 

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