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The End Comes To The Colonel's Compound

By       Message Brian Downing       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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The Upheavals across the Middle East have come to Colonel Kadafi's Libya and unlike his fellow rulers to his east, he is struggling to hold on to his iron rule. Much of the population opposes the colonel and many parts of the military and state have gone over to the opposition. The colonel retains control over security forces and army units commanded by his sons, but in the public he only has the support of the few people who benefited from his petro-largesse and a few tribes whose members have been well placed in the security forces and army.


The two sides are maneuvering, fighting intermittently, and seeking to garner international help. Kadafi may well be looking to Saddam Hussein's resistance to the western invasion back in 2003 and seek to fight a sustained insurgency, but his rule is almost certainly nearing its end.

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Conventional Fighting

Kadafi's control is mainly in his capital of Tripoli and a smattering of garrisons along the Mediterranean coast. He has brought in mercenary fighters from sub-Saharan Africa and possibly from neighboring Algeria as well. The colonel has tried to regain control over some coastal cities, but without notable success. His attempt to retake Bregga on Wednesday was repulsed by rebel soldiers and citizens.

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The colonel's foreign forces are little more than hoodlums who have thus far been effective in driving demonstrators off the streets of Tripoli but who will be useless against oncoming rebel army units, who of course have superior discipline, weaponry, local knowledge, and public support.


Loyalist forces appear to be weakening. Garrison's here and there go over to the rebels. Ministers and ambassadors denounce Kadafi. Tribal support has been based on practical dealmaking, not on the colonel's charismatic qualities. Those have long left him, leaving only an eerie dissociation that elicits more worry than loyalty. Accounts of the growing size and resolve of rebel forces are reaching the loyalist rank and file, perhaps in exaggerated forms.


Kadafi has warned international audiences of the twin specters of an al Qaeda victory and calamitous oil prices that will further weaken already flagging economies around the world, chiefly in Europe and the United States. The former argument has no basis in fact; the latter concern is likely transitory. In any event, should a protracted oil crisis emerge due to turmoil in Libya, foreign powers, Arab and western, could easily end it.

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Rebel forces are in the process of contacting colleagues and relatives in the loyalist forces and pointing out the increasing futility of supporting the colonel. Further, rebel forces are maneuvering toward Tripoli and other loyalist redoubts with the aim of confronting their opponents with strategic checkmate.


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Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam.

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