Free Libya Forces Advance in Western Mountains

Rebel forces took the city al-Qawalish on Wednesday, extending their control toward the capital and putting them in striking distance of the key city of Gharyan. Meanwhile, a Russian report said that Qaddafi was willing to step down (this strikes me as extremely unlikely, and why is it only coming via Moscow? Qaddafi has a television station of his own).

A NATO bombing campaign on checkpoints of security forces in the Western Mountains helped the rebel advance, and was denounced by the government in Tripoli, which predicted that the bombing would not in fact allow the Free Libya forces to move forward. Qaddafi brigades ran a long and bloody operation to subdue the western mountains towns, bombarding noncombatants with tank and mortar shells for weeks, long after the United Nations Security Council strictly instructed him to stop attacking his population and to allow them to demonstrate peacefully. Also on Wednesday, Qaddafi brigades continued to shell Misrata, killing 11, mostly civilians. I would argue that in defying the UNSC order, and in committing further war crimes against his people, Qaddafi made his an outlaw state and under these circumstances the UN resolution authorizes NATO action to prevent him from committing further atrocities. The only practical way to do so, given his defiance and aggression with heavy weapons, is to hit them where they are committing aggression and to strengthen the Free Libya forces.

Aljazeera reports on attempts to rebuild by the towns that were brutally assaulted by Qaddafi’s tanks for daring to dissent against his dictatorship:

Aljazeera offers the first good explanation I’ve seen of why the Western Mountains region has been a prime front in the Libya liberation movement. It suggests that the Free Libya forces are attempting to cut the capital, Tripoli, off from the southern desert city of Sabha, which is Qaddafi-controlled and is a major military base and munitions storage area. It reports that the rebels have taken

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Aljazeera English reports on the new offensive:

and here is a recent report from the same source on the media war in Libya.

Posted in Libya | 15 Responses | Print |

15 Responses

  1. The NATO mandate is to protect civilians. The only manner in which to protect civilians from a bloody tyrant and his death squads is to remove the tyrant.

    NATO should drop the other shoe and supply mortars, RPG and machine guns to the rebels directly – as there is no other practical way to protect Libyans from the wrath of Qadafi, short of landing troops.

    • I agree that NATO should be arming the rebels, including with heavy weapons. But that clearly is not going to happen.

      Its obvious that NATO does not want the rebels to achieve a complete military victory. My main problem with this approach is that so many Free Libyan soldiers and civilians have died as a result.

      (BTW, I never bought the argument that Al-Qaida craved tanks and heavy artilary. )

      • France has been providing arms for the rebels since the start of this operation.

        Your main problem with this approach is that so many Libyan civilians have died as a result. Your chilling indifference to libyan civilians, that happen support Qaddafi, deaths is very disturbing.

  2. The location of Gharyan on the map is not correct. Gharyan is roughly at the eastern end of the Nafousa mountains.

  3. The rebels still have to fight 35 miles through heavily defended territory to reach Gharyan. The Free Libyans have superior morale, they are fighting on favorable terrain, but it is highly quesionable that they will be able to penetrate Gadaffy’s heavy artilary and defenses. They don’t call it a “garrison town” for nothing. The rebels are not in “striking distance”, the news reports are exaggerated. But we can hope for the best.

    Today’s article from the BBC spells out what is patently true, NATO is maintaining a stalemate as a matter of policy:
    link to bbc.co.uk

    Juan, when this conflict started, you advocated that NATO and Free Libyan forces not invade Tripoli, but rather achieve a political settlement to preempt a final, very bloody, all-out battle. (I may have missed some of your nuance.) Well, this appears to be EXACTLY what NATO is trying to achieve. I don’t know why you resist recognizing the obvious, the key frontline points have stalemated, with the rebels outgunned. NATO has only allowed light arms to trickle to the rebels, and they aren’t assisting advances with air support.

    • Odd, then, that Free Libya forces keep making advances, with air support.

      And that BBC article “spells out” nothing of the kind. It states that the air strikes around Misrata aren’t as much as the rebels want. It says nothing about a policy of stalemate.

      • Free Libya forces have made precious little progress where it really matters. On the frontline of Misrata, they have been taking shocking levels of casualties for a small militia, Gadaffy clobbers them with rockets with impunity. NATO has evidently made a policy decision to not defend the rebels. The whole war is replete with examples of this attitude.

        There are several very frank interviews with General Bouchard, the canadian general who has final authorization for air strikes. In one, he explicitly said that he puts a low priority on reacting to requests from the field. The bureaucratic, timid, slow, systematic, aloof nature of the process is obvious.

        Another clue to the nature of the war is gleaned from following the daily strike reports from NATO. They are dispersed evenly throughout the whole country, often in obscure, remote towns that send you to google maps. Maybe this has changed recently, but NATO has not concentrated firepower where it is critically needed. They pick-off safe and clear targets through the targeting bureaucracy.

        The BBC article repeatedly and explicitly states that the battle lines are in stalemate. It does not say that the airstrikes are less than the rebels want, it objectively observes the passivity of NATO. You are correct that the article does not use the phrase “policy of stalement”, it is up to you to connect the dots.

        I don’t know why people are sticking their heads in the sand. NATO has said all along that there is no military solution, they clearly are angling for a political settlement. Many analysts on the left have called for the fighting to stop short of final military victory. I generally agree with this sentiment, but one has to constantly questions assumptions as wars play out.

        • Only a few weeks ago, Misrata was under heavy siege and seemed near to falling. It is now indisputably under Free Libya control, despite the occasional incoming from Qaddafi Brigades, and its citizens have made advances toward Zlintan.

          There are two fronts in the Western Mountains that have been slowly but surely advancing. If I could do a time stop video for people showing what has actually happened, it would be clear that there never was a stalemate and that the upward curve of rebel victories has continued.

          Of course it would be better if the people in Tripoli bundled the Qaddafis onto a plane to Caracas and then reached out to Benghazi for a political resolution. Until they do that, the war will continue.

        • The UN mandate is to protect civilians, not provide military aid to the rebels. It also includes an arms embargo.

          That, more than any policy of stalemate, explains why NATO hasn’t gone all-in to be the Free Libya Forces’ air force, or given them heavy weaponry.

          The BBC article repeatedly and explicitly states that the battle lines are in stalemate.

          Actually, it only says that about Misurata. As Juan reports, there has been a great deal of progress in the western mountains.

          Anyway, wars in Libya aren’t won by seizing territory. Ask the Germans. They’re won by one side wearing down the other’s capacity to stay in the fight until it collapses. Government forces are being materially weakened day by day. This won’t end with the Free Libya Forces slogging inch by inch into Tripoli, but with the regime collapsing and Tripoli itself rising up.

          Strikes that weaken command-and-control and interrupt lines of communication are the strikes that bring the end closer.

    • I believe NATO (and Juan’s) policy is a sensible one. If Tripoli gets drawn in an all-out war, the measure of recrimination and vengeance produced will take decades to settle.

      On the other hand, if the rebels advance ever so slightly every week, at some point the last straw will break Qadafi’s back.

      So I would not consider it a stalemate. In the past 3 days, there has been actually quite significant progress on two of the 5 fronts. Brega is about to fall as well.

      When Qadafi’s circle implodes, NATO is hoping that his replacment, i.e. a committee of generals will be happy to usher in democracy. This part I suspect may as a rule be problematic. But on the other hand, there is enough weapons among the population now, that the committee will have no choice but to cooperate with the UN in setting up a Constitutional Assembly.

      Will a secular state emerge, or will a Sharia state that gradually shuts down civil liberties emerge?

  4. Gharyan is an entirely different challenge than the rest of the Nafusa Mountain advance.

    The war has dragged-on much longer and bloodier than was necessary. I expect it will eventually end well, but it has been painful to watch.

    • NATO has said that they have introduced a new air delivered weapon that is well suited for battle scenes where heavy armor is hiding in an urban surrounding.

      Gharyan has a history of an uprising – so there is already an anti-Qadafi force there.

  5. For those who may not have read this, there was reportedly a large rally in Benghazi yesterday – tens of thousands of rebel supporters took to the streets. The rally was reportedly intended to counter the large rally held in Tripoli a week ago in support of Qaddafi. Some observers estimated the Tripoli crowd at 1,000,000 people, but a review of YouTube videos makes it possible to see only approximately 200,000 people (my guesstimate) because the camera wasn’t able to take in more than that number in any one shot, and it’s possible that other shots showed an overlap. Even so, the Tripoli crowd was quite large, as was the Benghazi crowd in yesterday’s rally.

  6. “Of course it would be better if the people in Tripoli bundled the Qaddafis onto a plane to Caracas and then reached out to Benghazi for a political resolution. Until they do that, the war will continue.”

    It appears from videos of the Tripoli rally last Friday that Qaddafi may still have at least some lingering support from the people in Tripoli, though it’s possible they were all forced to come out. Check out YouTube for videos of the July 1 rally, and also for the July 7 Benghazi rally for the rebels.

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