Friday, July 1, 2011

Libya coming to a head?

StrategyPage seems to be of the opinion that Muammar Gadhafi's days in Libya are numbered:
Given the rate at which rebels are pushing back Kaddafi troops, and the effects of the air and sea blockade of Kaddafi controlled western Libya, Kaddafi is not expected to last more than three months. Kaddafi now has a goal. If he can hang on into October, the coalition fighting him might fall apart, enabling some kind of peace deal that would partition the country. But with the embargo and war crimes indictments, that is unlikely. Kaddafi is a fugitive in his own capital, constantly moving to avoid NATO bomb attacks. U.S. and NATO intelligence, using rebel sympathizers, is constantly updating their map of who is where in Tripoli. While military targets have priority, a suspected Kaddafi sighting will always get at least one smart bomb. NATO military planners keep score of Kaddafi's military strength (which is kept secret, lest it provide useful information to Kaddafi military or intelligence forces), and the trend has been down, more sharply of late. That, plus the difficulty supplying millions of civilians under his control, is why NATO believes Kaddafi won't last another hundred days. It's been about a hundred days since NATO began its military operations in Libya. Meanwhile, the rebels have gotten better on the battlefield, and behind the lines. The rebel coalition is holding together, and each day, rebel fighters gain more combat experience, and more of them come out of NATO training programs. Some NATO troops are on the ground in rebel-held Libya, to conduct training or assist with coordinating the bombing.

The number of Libyan refugees in Tunisian refugee camps is now over 22,000. The number coming across the border has declined as local rebels push Kaddafi troops away from the border.
The rebels have a big advantage with NATO airpower. This means several hundred smart bombs or missiles are available each day, to hit Kaddafi forces. This has been going on for over three months, and the pro-Kaddafi fighters and mercenaries will often retreat rather than face the deadly accuracy of the NATO bombs. Kaddafi has handed out over a million weapons (rifles, pistols, machine-guns, mortars and RPGs) to followers in western Libya. Some of those people have switched sides, but there are still many who support Kaddafi (for tribal or economic reasons). In urban areas, these gunmen can leave one neighborhood, to evade NATO bombs, and show up in another within hours. Thus the seemingly endless fighting in western towns like Misarata and Zawiya. It will be the same once the rebels enter Tripoli, the biggest city in the country.
Gadhafi's use of mercenaries from the Sudan (the sub-Saharan region, not necessarily the country), especially Chad, has been an interesting facet of this war.  I can't remember such an extensive use of mercenaries in my lifetime. 

The racial difference between the rebels, who are mostly white, and the mercenaries, who are mostly black, has sparked allegations that the rebels are racist because they have practiced atrocities (unfortunately) mostly on captured black soldiers.  However, is not so much racism as using race as an indicator that the soldier is a mercenary.  There has been a special resent among the rebels, indigenous to Libya, towards these mercenaries from outside the country.

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