Senate Committee Backs Obama on Libya as Rebels capture major Arms Depot

Muammar Qaddafi’s increasingly beleagured security forces were hit with three demoralizing developments on Monday and Tuesday. First, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted to authorize President Obama to pursue the Libya war for one year. Although members of the committee were critical of the president for not coming to them in the first place, the vote takes the edge off the House of Representatives’ rebuke of the president regarding the war a few days ago.

Free Libya forces in the Western Desert region captured the largest weapons depot in Africa, the dreaded Ghaa military base where dictator Muammar Qaddafi had stockpiled bombs and ammunition. The advance is another in a series of achievements for the dissidents, who have in recent weeks fought off murderous Qaddafi brigades trying to reduce cities such as Zintan and Yefren in the Western Mountains and Misrata to the east of Tripoli. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have been liberated by the Free Libya forces, which are now increasingly in striking distance of the capital. They had sometimes not, however, been very well-equipped and the capture of this major depot much increases their firepower. It is also a big morale booster for the Free Libya fighters and another blow to the spirit of the much-diminished, remaining pro-Qaddafi troops.

Aljazeera English reports:

Aljazeera also reports on attempts of the rebels to organize themselves.

Another blow to the morale of the Qaddafi brigades was yesterday’s indictment of Qaddafi for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Aljazeera carries an interview with Moreno-Ocampo of the ICC:

Posted in Libya | 26 Responses | Print |

26 Responses

  1. The effort Libya serves as further evidence of Santayana’s famous aphorism on history. During Operation Allied Force, Clinton weakened his ability to prosecute the war by publicly removing the ground troops option in order to secure the acquiescence of weak-willed Congress members and NATO, planned for a limited campaign of a few days, refused to properly arm and equip the on- the- ground resistance (KLA), and ultimately failed to flat out fight the war. The situation turned out okay, despite the limited damage inflicted on the FRY (Serb) forces in Kosovo, because ultimately NATO was seeking only to end Milosevic’s authority over a small portion of the state he ran, Milosevic had the option to retreat and maintain power. In contrast, Qaddafi has no where to go and we’re trying to end his reign over the entire nation.

    So, here were are.

    • A more significant difference is that the vast majority of Serbians sided with Milosevic, while Khadaffy is so unpopular that he had to bring in foreign mercenaries just to have enough troops to put down a rebellion by the North African equivalent of a bunch of DFHs.

      • Due to widespread draft resistance, an unwillingness to fight outside of local areas, and mass emigration out of the FRY, Milosevic was in many ways dependent on mercenaries, common criminals, and soccer hooligans like Arkan and his “tigers,” Captain Dragan, and others.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    So the chaps from the rag tag Free Lybia Forces have captured an arms dump.

    There are (officialy !!) no NATO boots on the ground to secure the dump.

    I seem to recall that one of the things the US Army forgot to do in Iraq was to secure the arms dumps until it was too late.

    So now every Tariq, Daoud, and Hakim will be off with his own load of RPG, AK, Milan, land mines, anti tank mines and whatever else people have peddled to the Ghadaffi regime over the past ten years.

    Not a hope in hell of holding this alliance (if it ever was one) together.

    Oh what fun! :-(

  3. The two preceding comments both assume that the Free Libya Forces themselves cannot be trusted to liberate their own country, or to secure it when they win, that only NATO can do it for them.

    I vehemently disagree.

    • As do I Joe. This stems, IMO, from an inherent racism that says that Arabs are incapable of acting civilized (ironic coming from a Eurocentric group given that it was the Arabs that pulled we whities from the dung heap of the dark ages). Sadly, many of my Arab friends have also bought into this malarky

      • Nah, Yusuf. it’s more an assessment that the rebels lack the resources. Save the racism charges for another occasion, one where there’s some evidence rather than mere suspicion.

    • Watching people blazing off ammunition at God knows what, on the TV news clips, gives me an indication of the level of fire disciplie and hence the level of discipline of the overall force.

      Lots of noise. No effective fire.

      Hence my comment

  4. The war in Libya is stuck in a bloody stalemate that could last years.

    link to criticalthreats.org

    The above analysis comes from the conservative side of the debate. They are looking correct on this one.

    (One thing I learned from the long Iraq debacle is that everyone and anyone can be wrong. Both ideological sides took turns being colossally wrong. I think Juan has been proven correct through most of that arc, but he certainly didn’t anticipate the success of the surge. Humility is the lesson.)

    • There isn’t any stalemate in Libya.

      After the UNSC ordered Qaddafi to stop murdering his civilian population with planes and tanks, he redoubled his efforts to do so in Misrata and the Western Mountain region and in the Buraiqa basin.

      He was stopped at the gates of Benghazi, averting a bloodbath (how big we can argue about, but subsequent events at Misrata show what would have happened and that there would have been a bloodbath is obvious).

      Then he was pushed back from Ajdabiya to Brega.

      Then he was gradually over several weeks pushed back from Misrata, and the city was liberated by Free Libya forces with some (but frankly not enough) NATO help.

      Then his attackers in the Western Mountain area besieged a string of small towns, but they were gradually fought off; NATO contributions were not insignificant but most of the fighting seems to have been by locals, many of them Berbers except in Zintan. The rebels have now broken out of the siege of the Western Mountains and have made impressive strides toward Tripoli.

      Since the UN intervention began, Qaddafi’s riposts have been systematically rolled back. This doesn’t look like a stalemate at all, it looks like a gradual defeat of Qaddafi by poorly armed and trained citizens with some help from the skies. And there isn’t any doubt where it is going.

      • The myth of a stalemate is a combination of wishful thinking by so-called-anti-war advocates who were hoping the mission would fail, and confusion on the part of people who thought that the location of the Benghazi/Brega front was the entirety of the rebellion.

  5. —And there isn’t any doubt where it is going.—

    just as there was no doubt where things were going as Saddam’s army was being routed and when the Taliban were being crushed?

    Professors make lousy generals. There isn’t any doubt about that, right?

    • You haven’t actually been reading what I wrote on Iraq and Afghanistan these past few years, have you? Geez, you’d think you’d want to represent my extensive comments on how unlikely those wars were to end well correctly, since you are arguing with… me.

      All I said was that Qaddafi will eventually be toast. Libya’s long-term future was put in doubt by Qaddafi’s decision to engage in mass killing to try to stay in power once his people mostly rose up against him. how Libya deals with overcoming that trauma will be up to the Libyans and I make no predictions about that. But that Qaddafi sometime in the relatively near term will not be in Libya or alive, I’d give a 70% chance.

      • I’m less arguing with…you….than with your presumption that things in Libya can only go in one direction from here,

        Qaddafi is little different from anybody else in that we’re all eventually toasted.

        There can be any number of events before eventually, Professor, and Qaddafi should have been toasted 30 years ago and yet …he’s still not done .,,, even though Libya’s long-term future was put in doubt by his ascension to power more than 40 years ago.

        • There is no way this thing ends with Qaddafi in power, anywhere. Period. The only question is the timing.

    • In 2003, Saddam’s army was routed.

      In 2001, the Taliban were crushed.

      Their defeats were among the most convincing, one-sided whuppings in military history.

      It was the insurgencies that followed, in response to the post-war occupations, that proved so difficult to defeat, but the main-force actions against Saddam’s army and the Taliban government’s military were among the most lopsided wars ever fought.

      Seriously, someone who doesn’t understand the difference between the state-on-state conflicts and the insurgencies that developed over the following years doesn’t need to condescend to anyone about their knowledge of military affairs.

      • hey joe,

        Saddam’s where he belongs, but

        where’s Mullah Omar gonna be when we leave Afghanistan?

    • Professor Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Virginia Military Institute, was pretty good. So was Professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Bowdoin College, who held the line at Gettysburg. I would argue that modern generals are the ones who lack the intellectual breadth to understand the social and economic blowback from the wars they engage in, because they don’t understand civilians.

      • super,

        I don’t remember Chamberlain as being a general officer at Gettysburg, but that’s a quibble.

        Point to you.

  6. Yes, there has been some progress. But the advances you cite are the (relatively) low-hanging fruit.

    The rebels can’t advance across open terrain against an entrenched opponent with heavy weapons, NATO is not providing intense close air support. The Misrata clearing was unique – urban warfare. The mountain victories are another home field win against a dispersed opponent.

    The rebels in east are not close to being able to challenge the entrenched loyalists in Brega. They are actually out-numbered against dug-in defenses.

    The Misrata rebels are unable to move against the heavy artilary of Zlitan.

    Gaddafy has fortified the critical mountain transit around Garyan. You don’t see the mountain rebels being able to move further east even on their turf.

    Zawiya is a different sort of matter, but Gadaffy seems to have crushed the opposition in this critical western node.

    Gaddafy has successfully drawn a line in the sand at all the critical points. He has successfully created a stalemate, at least for now, and NATO needs to give the rebels weapons or air support to break it or we’ll be here a year from now.

    I will be thrilled to learn in coming weeks that you are right, Juan, but I don’t see it now from where I’m sitting.

    • The defense of Misrata from tank brigades and cluster bombs was not ‘low hanging fruit.’ It was an extremely tough mission in which perhaps 1000 people died, and it could easily have gone the other way.

      I’m not sure what makes you think if they can take Misrata the rebels can’t take Zlintan and Tajoura over time. Qaddafi’s advantage is mainly in heavy weaponry, which NATO and the rebels are attriting slowly but surely.

      • Rebels must advance across open terrain against Zlintan, not so in Misrata.

        It is claimed that 2/3 of the population of Zlintan are loyalist. Maybe they are really more undecided than anything else, but this is a different environment.

        In Misrata, the rebels had their backs against the wall in do-or-die fight. The Gadaffy loyalists have this perverse advantage in Zlintan.

        I am most unimpressed with NATO’s alleged attriting. At this rate, it will take just short of forever before Gaddafy’s forces are weak in Zlintan or Brega relative to the barely-armed rebels.

        Juan, we are armchair generals. The armchair generals who at least were once real generals tend to confirm my point of view.

        • Qaddafi began with 2000 tanks. Of course, some of them didn’t actually run very well. And they need shells and ammunition to work even where they still exist.

          Qaddafi doesn’t have 2000 tanks any more. How many would you estimate he does have? And when he has none, what will stop the increasingly well-armed and bold rebels from making some sudden advances. And as Joe says, when he has no tanks, what will stop Tripoli residents in Suq al-Jum’ah and Tajoura from just getting rid of him?

          I don’t know how you can be unimpressed with the rate of attrition when you give us no numbers for Qaddafi-held munitions in March and now. It seems obvious to me that the attrition is severe already. In these matters, there is a tipping point, and when it is reached, the whole conflict will end quickly. That is what happened in Misrata, already, which, remember, is the country’s third-largest city and the liberation of which is demographically and politically highly significant.

    • Wars in Libya don’t turn on the capture of territory, but on the attrition of one side until it eventually collapses entirely. Ask the Germans, Italians, and British.

      The four fronts aren’t important for the territory they capture, but for the attrition and spreading-out of the government’s forces in preparation for the impending uprising in the capital.

      General, there are four columns heading towards Madrid. Which one do you think will take it? Why, the fifth column in the city, of course.

    • Question is, if the rebels are now exporting oil, establishing financial credit and capturing heavy weapons, does this change the nature of the war on any of its fronts? Even a harangue from Gadafi will not make a tank run without fuel, so the issue of how he keeps getting fuel determines whether he can ever go back on the offensive. If not, the tanks can still defend his cities but his cause has no point because he cannot reunify the country on his terms.

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