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Libya: How It Looks Now

Remains of Gaddafi's home in Benghazi (photo: Al Jazeera English via Flickr)

The news that forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi have launched partially successful offensives against the “liberated” areas, with some success is not surprising. The failure to kill or capture him in the earliest days of the uprising means that he and his forces’ commanders have had enough time to regroup, reorganize, and mount a determined resistance to being overthrown. Libya is probably in for a relatively lengthy civil war.

So far the greatest threat to the revolution seems to have come from airborne regime offensives against two cities south of Benghazi:

Port Brega – which government troops briefly took control of.

Ajdabiya – the nearby town inland and north-east to Brega, on the main road towards Benghazi came under attack from Port Brega once government troops had secured their positions. Normally reliable sources say their contact’s in Ajdabiya confirmed rumors that the town was bombed in a surprise attack. There are unconfirmed reports of relatively light civilian casualties – less than 20 deaths and an unknown number injured.

Fighting is continuing and appears to be spreading. I am discounting reports sourced only from insurrectionary sources in Brega that they completely repelled the government forces as a police commander in Benghazi has said that government troops still control the Port Brega airport. If true, and I see no reason to doubt it, they will be able to bring in reinforcements and continue their attacks on eastern Libyan cities. Brega’s anti-government forces are likely to mobilize their troops to protect their city. The only way they can do this is by road. The disadvantages to this against troops who dominate the terrain (see below) and can call upon air support are obvious. [cont’d]

Conclusion: This attack was possible because anti-government forces allowed government forces to consolidate their hold on Sirte and it’s environs.

Rebels Securing Cities Under Their Control:

Contrary to their claims, revolutionary troops seem to be preoccupied with securing their cities rather than engaging in any offensive towards Tripoli or Sirte. The effect of this has been to allow government troops to dominate most if not all of the terrain outside the rebel-held cities and to regroup to start their new offensives.

The rebels’ concentration on defending populated areas but not the roads connecting them or the mountainous and desert regions in-between has allowed the 32nd Brigade under the command of Khamis al-Qhataffi to move freely between the rebel-held towns and cities. The brigade is attacking rebel forces in city after city in the western-most region of Libya. The key towns to the region between Tripoli and the Tunisian border — Zawiya and Zuwara, are both reported to have come under attack. Rebel forces seem to have been mostly able to repel these attacks.

Conclusion: The fact that rebel forces have been able to repel 32nd Brigade’s attacks is largely irrelevant. The brigade are well-armed, well-trained, highly disciplined, and fanatically loyal. Their commander’s strategy is to engage rebel forces, protesters, and defected troops in the areas surrounding Tripoli.

As almost all these areas have fallen into rebel hands the rebels are:

1: Being forced to defend what and where they hold.

2: Have been forced to stop their attempts to send armed protesters and troops to Tripoli in support of protesters there.

Conclusion: The government is consolidating their grip on Tripoli as protestor and rebel reinforcements from other towns and cities fail to arrive. Reports from normally reliable sources in the capital say that protests are continuing in the capital, but are now mostly in groups of hundreds.

Conclusion: At present the tactics adopted by the 32nd Brigade’s commander Khamis al-Qhataffi are working. The initial unified attack on the regime is failing and Tripoli is more under the control of loyalist forces than it has been since the revolution began.

Editor’s Note: Source: internal briefing document. Author: Abu Dubhaltach. Translation From Arabic: (1) Mohammed Ibn Laith, (2) Harith.

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