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June 09, 2011

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Correlation of forces, last 24 hours: NTC has sold their first tankerload of oil. Foreign donors have pledged a total of $1.3 billion in nonmilitary aid to the rebels. A boatload of defectors, allegedly including field-grade military officers, has arrived in Tunisia.

A large (500 men + personnel carriers + artillery) Loyalist attack took place near Misurata; rebels are claiming victory with ~70 casualties. Qaddafi claims to have shot down a NATO helicopter. (Which IMO is perfectly plausible, esp. if they're doing close support. But it won't help much.)

This last may be random, or someone on Qaddafi's side may be thinking clearly. The foolish strategy would be to stomp the Berbers, who've been making serious gains down south and are now just over 100 km from Tripoli. But the Berbers, though annoying, aren't a strategic threat -- there aren't enough of them, and they don't have heavy enough weapons, to seriously threaten Tripoli. Hammering at Misurata makes more sense, even if it's not likely to succeed.


Doug M.

Qatar has has shipped four tankers full of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels to Benghazi, enough to feed the Benghazi power plant for one or two weeks. More shipments are coming (outside the aid pledge): they aren't covered by commercial tracking services.

In other news, it looks like the Italian decision to take the lead on arranging western aid is paying off.

There seem to be reports of rebels at or near http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=ZAWIYAH+,+Libya&aq=&sll=32.012734,12.897949&sspn=4.140148,5.592041&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Az-Z%C4%81wiyah,+Az+Zawiyah,+Libya&ll=32.049989,12.908936&spn=4.138466,5.592041&z=8>Zawiyah.


Guerrillas != a fourth front -- though it's certainly interesting.


Doug M.

I saw a report this morning that the rebels are starting to move west to Zlilan. Is Misrata actually under their control now?

Yah, they seem to have driven the Loyalists well west of the city center.

In fact, of the three fronts, the only one that's still static is the main one in the east.


Doug M.

And the US recognizes the NTC as the legitimate Libyan gov.

The NTC just dissolved their executive committee after that military leader assassination. Is this as bad as it appears?


It's pretty bad, yes.

The funny thing is, the further one gets from Benghazi, the better the rebels' military situation seems to become.


Doug M.

Major breakthroughs in the last few days on every front but in the east, where the advances have been slow and modest.

Probably time for another post.


Doug M.

Gaddafi is lobbing scuds now. That says desperation to me.

He has reason to be desperate. The latest offensive seems to have caught him badly by surprise.

Note that the Scud was launched not in the west, where the rebels are drawing the noose around Tripoli, but in the east. Why? Well, Scuds are not precision weapons, at all. My guess is that it's an implicit threat at the oil infrastructure -- "even if you manage to take it intact, we can still trash it from a distance". Trashing the oil industry and/or the capital are pretty much his last strong bargaining chips now.


Doug M.

If the oil infrastructure is all on the coast, think an aegis might be deployed in the area soon?

Is it me, or did it seem that the rebels stopped the see-sawing after the French and British deployed the attack helicopters?


It's not all on the coast, but that's where the refineries and jetties are.

There's already at least one Aegis in theater. Also, note that Qaddafi's Scud capacity is probably pretty limited. And he doesn't have a lot of room to move his launch sites around any more. He's now hemmed into the triangle Zawiya - Zlitan - Bani Walid, which is an area maybe the size of New Jersey, with no point more than 100 miles inland. So any launch site is likely to attract a lot of negative attention pretty quickly. I don't see the Scuds playing more than a minor role.

The helicopters are definitely helping. What's interesting is that they seem to be coordinating effectively with rebel forces tactically right down to the platoon level. In the last month or so, somebody's gone to a lot of effort to set up the necessary switching, translation and coordination links. That's no small thing.

(Several friendly fire incidents were reported back in July. In retrospect, I'm wondering how many of those were shakedown tests.)

Also, while they couldn't have done it without NATO, let's give some props to the rebels themselves. They've clearly made a major leap forward in organization and effectiveness.


Doug M.

Looks like barring a catastrophe, August is the end game and Scuds are absolutely irrelevant.

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