Amidst all the grim news of general chaos and possible reprisals in Tripoli, there’s some unintentional hilarity (as with all things Colonel G) that resulted from the rebels overunning and then ransacking his Bab al-Aziziyah compound. Things like THIS:
Seems like our dear Colonel was holding quite a torch for a certain SecState. Just imagine how much batshit talk the far right media in the US would unleash if it was actually Hillary instead. But Cond…er, LEEZA, how could you NOT fall in love with such impeccable dress sense?
Another day, another fiasco. Now, some might accuse detractors of excessive snark, but it’s hard not to when stuff like this happens. Even if you ignore that factoid about 4x the wasted ammunition as being unreliable, there’s plenty of stuff that makes one smack the face:
But in the characteristically fanciful version of events provided by the Shabaab, a spokesman claimed it was all part of a cunning regime plot. According to Mustafa Ali Omar: “Some of Gaddafi’s forces sneaked in among the rebels and fired anti-aircraft guns in the air. After that, Nato came and bombed them.”
Captain Rahim Mohammed Fatousi, an army officer who defected to the revolution, shrugged “It is very difficult with the Shabaab: they were told many times to leave because we knew the coalition was going to carry out air attacks. But these people have support from some of the political factions in Benghazi who want to use their influence through them. We shall continue to try and have some discipline into this operation.”
By yesterday, however, this had frayed. The Shabaab, as well as unarmed civilians, were allowed access to the front line and the result was seen in the retreat from the scene of the “friendly fire” when the Shabaab began to shoot in panic at their own side – rebel military moving along the desert – and even others fleeing behind them. Later, another retreat followed when a “volunteer”, a 17-year-old who had decided to observe the fighting while his school remains shut, mistook some local farmers for undercover Gaddafi troops.
At some point the Shabaab needs to ask themselves whether they’re tagging along for a photoshoot jaunt or they’re actually serious about overthrowing Gaddafi. All the impartial observer is seeing are disaffected youths letting off testosterone-fueled steam. Lives are at stake here, most of the time not theirs, as evident in the witch-hunt roadblocks they run in friendly cities and the lynchings of black migrant workers from the sub-Sahara.
Also, in other reports:
Despite reported ambiguity on Barack Obama’s part over the issue of arming and training the rebels, Gates made clear that the Pentagon firmly opposed it. Repeating that it was a “certainty” that no US ground troops would be authorised by Obama, he laid into the rebels’ capabilities, describing the opposition as a faction-ridden and disparate “misnomer” whose forces lacked “command and control and organisation”. If the opposition needed training and weapons, he said, “someone else” would have to provide it, a declaration that would seem to slam the door on the rebels’ hopes of being armed by the West.
The rebels better hope for a ceasefire, because that’s the best they can achieve out of this pointless stalemate as Gaddafi will be adverse to moving far out of Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, knowing he can starve the east out of oil revenue if he holds those towns. All this hooha about the Benghazi Bravado(tm) also ignores the real problem of Misurata, where the civilian deaths (that pesky issue that Resolution 1973 was actually SUPPOSED to be about) continues with merciless shelling by Gaddafi forces. Now, with the US withdrawing their gunships, these people have been effectively left to their fate.
It never fail to pour for our poor, poor rebels. It’s doubly ironic that the coalition doesn’t think twice about stretching Resolution 1973 to its utmost limit by bombing mobile field forces of Gaddafi that aren’t immediately threatening the civilians in urban areas, but sees no problems withdrawing the gunships from places like Misurata, where civilians ARE being targeted. Some will think of this as tacit admission that Gaddafi has outwitted the coalition now with his new tactics of deep entrenchment in city centres and using rebel tactics of travelling in civilian vehicles without heavy armour following. All this means is that the rebels keep getting flanked, which is really child’s play when the rebels could never pull off any similar counter with their deep disorganization and poor morale.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from the frontlines of the battle to reclaim Brega from pro-Gaddafi forces, said that overnight NATO air strikes allowed the pro-democracy fighters to gain some momentum, with discipline and co-ordination improving.
“They sent spotters out on the flanks before moving a unit forward,” Turton said. “It worked for a while before the more excitable rushed forward.”
Gaddafi’s forces, she said, reacted swiftly.
“Mortars obliterated one car and damaged two others. These rookie soldiers are learning the hard way,” Turton reported.
Progress seems painfully slow though. In other more hilarious news, turns out the Federal Reserve was snookered completely by the Libyan crisis. This is pretty much going to be gasoline on the anti-Fed fire in the US. The Tea Party is sure to make a lot of political capital off this.
Ah, parody imitates life. Turns out that Libya’s very own (admittedly not very entertaining) Baghdad Bob has a certain German wife, and her blog IS very entertaining. How can it not, with posts like these?
I’m not sure what to write really. I am stunned by the atrocities I have seen committed by these so-called rebels. Hangings. Beheadings. Immolations – and then they pulled out the heart and stamped on it. Is that what they want Libya to become?
I SPIT ON THEE DEFENCELESS HEART, NOBLE SOLDIER OF GADDAFI!
P.S: Meanwhile, back in reality, things are as grim (or comedic, depending on how dark your humour genes are) as ever for the ragtag rebels this week. How can it not? As one Guardian journalist puts it:
He [Gaddafi] seems to have adopted the rebel tactics of using pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted on the back. Highly mobile, much faster than using heavy armour, they’re able to sweep through the desert and around the rebels. Not only is he copying what the rebels are doing, he is doing it much better in the sense that he has much more disciplined troops.
Not hard to beat a force that has no radios, doesn’t listen to what few military commanders they have, wastes ammo, shells its own forces by mistake, is quick to brag but equally quick to blame the coalition for not fighting 99% of the war for them.
It seems like my analysis here has been a tad optimistic, judging from the coverage here by Time:
“The loyalists’ rapid advance on Benghazi last week before the coalition air strikes began also shook the fledgling rebel movement. Much of Benghazi’s civilian population has fled to towns farther east, and some of the previously prominent rebel leaders and defecting military commanders appear to have gone to ground. Amid rising fears of fifth columnists and Gaddafi sniper cells amid the loyalist push on the city last Friday and Saturday, some have also grown more suspicious of the soldiers who defected. “The big problem here is that most of the revolutionary guys don’t trust the military people because a lot of military guys were with Gaddafi from the start,” says Najla Elmangoush, a criminal-law professor at Benghazi’s Garyounis University and an activist at council headquarters. “We welcomed them when they joined,” she adds. “But people are concerned that maybe they’ll try anytime to change sides.” The regime is trying to encourage that fear, spreading false rumors last weekend that rebel commander Younis had returned to the regime’s camp.”
That’s not even considering such basic issues as the rebels using the mobile phone network to relay orders (they probably haven’t imposed any control on the chain of communication, so there’s no way it’s not a complete gaggle geese effect), and if that fails, they use motorized runners in medieval 2011. Short of the Western infidels hijacking their precious picnic war, which the rebels manifestly reject, there’s nothing here Gaddafi needs to worry about short of assassination.
All too predictably, this happens after the long-delayed vaunted airpower finally arrived. This people’s uprising is just that, a people’s uprising, which means it’s essentially a mob. The problem has been exacerbated by three main factors:
There’s now a permanent fear in the mindset of the rebel forces after that immense asskicking they received all the way from Bin Jawad back to the outskirts of Benghazi. In fact, for all the talk of months of hard urban fighting in Benghazi the city nearly fell in a few days when Gaddafi’s forces went for broke and tried to replicate the Misurata situation where they were entrenched within the city itself. Short of having a hard-fought major victory for new recruits, nothing is going to break that mentality, and it’s not possible to have that kind of victory when you have no command and control to speak of and rout at the slightest setback. It’s becoming a chicken and egg issue.
Most of the civilian veterans are either dead in that long retreat or have become stuck behind enemy lines essentially, forming the small but generally ineffectual pockets of resistance within captured cities, possibly due to having families in them. Without those as the core of the rebel force the militia approach has to start from scratch using the smaller Benghazi manpower pool.
That civilian pool of the rebel recruits is a major part of the problem, because once they have been armed they showed little sign of obeying any kind of central orders and will hare down the road west in little groups, with predictable outcomes. The only way this can be rectified is to hold them in Benghazi for a month of training before doing the major offensive, because dribbling green recruits out as soon as you get them is complete suicide against a proper military. There’s the added bonus that the Western air powers will start hitting the logistics chain of the Gaddafi in the weeks ahead, and it’s possible most of the mercenaries will think twice about sticking around once ammunition (and more importantly, the pay) starts running out.
If the international forces expect the rebels to topple Gaddafi as things stand now, the best they’re going to get is a partitioned Libya east of Sirte. They could reload this saved games a million times and the outcome will stay the same. Considering the political pressure internationally with just three days gone, this operation is unlikely to last a month. Either a cruise missile has to find Gaddafi as he’s sitting on the crapper, or the “advisors” on the ground for the West has to run the whole show for the Libyans. Nothing else is going to work, unless the US is willing to commit ground troops, and that’s just not going to happen.
This is just a very grim indication of the fate of the rest of the uprising when Gaddafi is through with them. As stated succinctly by Ranj Alaaldin for the Torygraph, “he has bided his time, tested the West’s resolve and is ready to take Libya back“. Given that Gaddafi is highly unlikely to run out of cash and it’s even less likely to run out of bullets/mortar rounds (all sitting prettily in his desert depots that are safely away from rebel regions) before the rebels run out of warm bodies, it’s very likely that even if any sort of limited international military action was agreed upon, it would be far too late by the time of implementation to really matter.
With the tide turning it will also see the end of any potential defections from Gaddafi’s military units, which means the status quo is overwhelmingly in his favour. The rebels will only weaken over time, even above their depressing logistical, command and technological inferiority issues, and the rate at which Gaddafi advances will increasingly pick up. With the EU/NATO paralyzed in disagreement over any sort of action beyond vague recrimination and seizing of liquid assets, much less push anything through the UN Security Council with Russia/China playing their usual spoiler role, it would not be surprising to me if his troops were outside Benghazi in a week, clearly a strategic objective if Tobruk is to be recaptured.