Airstrikes pound Tripoli as NATO escalates Libya campaign
An increase in NATO strikes along with British and French commitment to deploy attack helicopters may be aimed at breaking a stalemate in the conflict.
(Page 2 of 3)
"There is much less talk about liberating Tripoli these days," says the analyst, who could not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. "They're increasingly sitting back and assuming that NATO will take care of it for them, but I'm yet to find a military historian who can point to a conflict that was won from the air alone."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Sign up for our daily World Editor's Picks newsletter. Our best stories, in your inbox.
Opposition politicians are politicking "for their own future," he says, communications with Tripoli are "terrible," and there is "no real military chain of command" that can take on pro-Qaddafi forces.
The opposition – and NATO also – appear to be betting on military pressure breaking the stalemate, despite legal restrictions of the UN Security Council resolution that authorized NATO strikes.
The UN resolution specifically rules out foreign "boots on the ground." But in terms of targeting Qaddafi, some Western leaders, especially in the US, France, and Britain, have more than hinted that going after Libya's command structure might be interpreted to mean removing the man at its head.
But the rebel leadership is likely also to be receiving messages that such a push is "not an end in itself, nor sustainable," and so opponents of Qaddafi must up their game, too.
"Certainly a long, drawn-out status quo is not sustainable at all," says the Tripoli activist. Qaddafi may be running out of money, support and options, he suggests, but NATO also does not have unlimited time or resources to devote to Libya, with domestic elections and other problems to contend with.
"My interpretation is that they want this finished as quickly as possible, and are demonstrating this recently," says the rebel activist. "But [NATO] are restricted by conflicting ideas within the coalition as well as restriction from the [UNSC] mandate itself."
Uncertain what would follow Qaddafi's fall
While few expect the rag-tag rebel forces to march on Tripoli, hundreds of miles away against a relatively well-equipped pro-Qaddafi army, the removal of Qaddafi could dramatically upend things, as the departure of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year inspired Arabs across the region to revolt.
"Clearly if Qaddafi were to go in one way or another, it would be a huge change in the situation," says the European analyst. "Exactly what would then happen remains a big question. After such a long period of pressure on Tripoli, would people power be enough? Would the rest of Qaddafi's forces lay down arms without significant numbers of armed rebels on the ground?"