The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Your Daily Libyan Rebels Update

Posted on | April 4, 2011 | 6 Comments

Let me just start by noting that “Libyan Rebels” would be a great name for a punk-rock band. When last we checked in on the half-assed insurgency, the ill-armed and undisciplined rebels had made a 200-mile retreat to the vicinity of Brega. Now the BCC reports:

Rebels pushed towards Brega on Monday in an attempt to win back territory lost to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A BBC correspondent near Brega says they appear to be more buoyant and organised than recently. . . .
The BBC’s Wyre Davies, who is on the road close to Brega, says the sounds of gunfire and weaponry can be heard from the front line a few kilometres away.
Rebel fighters are charging towards the front line, our correspondent says, clearly bolstered by the presence in their ranks of more and more soldiers who have defected from Col Gaddafi’s army.
But the rebels remain poorly trained and equipped, he adds, and even if they manage to take Brega there still seems no realistic prospect of an advance on Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

OK, so the likelihood of rebels overthrowing Qaddafi appears as remote as ever. But there’s good news:

Italy on Monday formally recognized the rebel government of eastern Libya, dealing yet another blow to the embattled regime of Col. Moammar Kadafi.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Rome would open an office in rebel-held territory and formally recognize the Benghazi-based Libyan National Council as the only representative of the country. . . . Italy joins France as the second Western country to formally recognize the rebel government.

Diplomatic recognition by Italy and France — hey, that’s got to be worth something, right? Right? In other Libya news, Geraldo Rivera nearly got shot yesterday:

Geraldo isn’t really confident in the rebels. He said he was “as worried about getting shot in the back by the good guys as I was getting shot in the front by the Gaddafi forces,” and warned: “I swear to god, if you give these people weapons more powerful than they have right now, they will be a grave danger to themselves and others.”

In addition to scaring the crap out of Geraldo, the blundering insurgency is also ruining Obama’s message:

President Barack Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya has presented him with a whole new set of political problems with members of both parties. But its most worrisome effect for the White House is the way it’s undermining his efforts to address what has been his administration’s longest-running issue — the economy. . . .
Libya is drowning out his attempts to portray himself as an economic commander-in-chief fighting a series of new threats to the fragile U.S. recovery, especially the devastating and politically poisonous rise in gas prices.

Is it too early to say, “Quagmire”?

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that today “rebel fighters were engaging the main body of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces in an intense battle for the oil town of Brega, trading fire at close quarters and sending volleys of rockets into the town.”

It’s worth pointing out that we have very little knowledge of the size or disposition of Qaddafi’s forces — and neither do the rebels. So for all we know, the Qaddafi troops could be trying to draw the rebels into Brega while preparing a surprise encirclement. Given some estimates that the rebels number barely a thousand fighters, and that they have very little in the way of training or leadership, one suspects their tactical dispositions are not entirely sound (pardon the modest understatement). Allied air power is the only thing that’s keeping Qaddafi’s forces from mopping up the rebels.


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