August 22, 2011

TSG IntelBrief: Libya: Beginning of the Endgame?



Situation Update

Events on the ground in Libya are moving extremely fast, and the situation remains extremely volatile.  Even Ghaddafi loyalists are jumping from a sinking ship: according to the Kuwait News Agency, Libya's ambassador to Kuwait, Muhammad al-Mubarak, has said he is defecting to the rebels.  Al-Mubarak said the "Libyan embassy in Kuwait will operate from today as a representative of Libya's National Transitional Council."

Meanwhile, political success is mirrored by military achievements.  The fighters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) are making remarkable progress in Tripoli, with some 95% apparently under the control of the NTC.

One of the most telling signs came at approximately 1451 hrs local time when Libyan State TV went off the air - all the screens went blank, and there are reports that its headquarters is now under the control of the NTC.  In Egypt, this presaged the end of the Mubarak Government, and might well be the same in Libya.

However, what is clear is that there is some sporadic resistance in Tripoli from forces loyal to Colonel Ghaddafi.  Nonetheless, the much feared Khamis Brigade - a special forces unit commanded by Ghaddafi's youngest son, Khamis - has apparently chosen not to fight - although we suggest that they should not be written off at this stage.

We judge there are a number of possibilities why the Khamis Brigade has not undertaken operations.

Firstly, it is by no means clear what is the actual tactical situation in Tripoli.  There has not been a rout of pro-Ghaddafi forces; it is therefore possible loyalists have withdrawn to strongpoints, implying further fighting is possible.

Secondly, the unrelenting nature of the NATO air to ground attacks including British army Apache helicopters has taken its toll on both men, materiel and morale.

Thirdly, funded by some Arab nations, the NTC has been infiltrating weapons into Tripoli to arm civilians who wished to fight Ghaddafi.  These cells were activated over the weekend. Given the difficulty in communicating with the cells they acted in an uncoordinated manner, which accounts from the isolated pockets of resistance that emerged like ink blots over the capital city.

Fourth, there has been much covert activity by the NTC in arranging ceasefire agreements with the Presidential Guard in particular - these forces agreed to lay down the weapons in exchange for proper treatment, and currently the NTC appears to be honouring their side of the bargain.

The situation remains extremely volatile, and we do not discount the possibility of seeing  much more substantive fighting in urban areas.  However, the prophets of doom who saw a bloodbath occurring in Tripoli have as yet been proved wrong.  The NTC fighters pouring into Tripoli seem to have no intent to exact revenge - they simply want to liberate Tripoli and rid the country of the hated regime.

It also helps that the NTC is under the closest of media scrutiny, with TV teams from Al Jazeera and the BBC riding in the lead vehicles, and along with the Libyan people, the international community will be watching to ensure that there are no lapses in issues of human rights.


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