Libya Conflict: Situation Update
On March 19, 2011, the United States launched Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya following the passage of a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of all necessary measures to protect civilians from assaults by forces loyal to Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi. This joint Institute for the Study of War and Critical Threats Project tracker will provide continuous updates on U.S. and coalition operations and on the latest developments in Libya with a focus on the activities of pro-Qaddafi and opposition forces.
Libya Conflict: Weekly Recap
By David Witter
July 28, 2011
Diplomacy and Aid
The Libyan opposition’s governing body, the National Transitional Council (NTC), enjoyed an increasing level of political support this past week from its Western allies. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced Wednesday that Britain recognized the NTC as the “sole governmental authority,” a diplomatic status that France and the United States have also granted to the opposition government. (WP,AP) Increasing diplomatic recognition for the NTC has been accompanied by a joint effort by the United States and some European governments to make more financial aid available to the rebels. Since U.S. diplomatic recognition was bestowed on July 16, the Obama administration has worked to give the rebels access to the regime’s $34 billion that had been frozen by international sanctions. (WP) However, legal restrictions prevent all but a couple hundred million dollars from flowing to the NTC. Despite these setbacks, the NTC received aid in the form of a $143 million pledge and the first installment of a pledged $503 million in cash in fuel from Germany and Italy, respectively. (Reuters, AP) The NTC also received 5,000 tons of free diesel fuel from Turkey last week, the second half of a 10,000 ton shipment.
Deal or No Deal
The lack of progress in brokering a negotiated settlement to the five month conflict has led to statements by U.S. and European political leaders that seemingly express a willingness to allow Libyan regime leader Moammar Qaddafi and his family to remain in Libya once he stepped down from power. Statements made by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, British Foreign Minister William Hague, and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé have indicated that they are in favor of letting the Libyan people decide Qaddafi’s future. (NYT, BBC, Reuters) This linguistic formulation has been interpreted to mean that Qaddafi is no longer required to leave Libya after abdicating power, which until this point has been a non-negotiable condition. Allowing Qaddafi to remain in Libya would mean that the Libyan dictator could potentially avoid being prosecuted in accordance to the arrest warrant issued this month by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. (CSM) This position shift was publicly embraced by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil in a statement made Sunday when he announced that "Qaddafi can stay in Libya but it will have conditions. We will decide where he stays and who watches him.” (WSJ) These comments are vague and could encompass a broad array of outcomes for the Libyan dictator’s future, ranging from a comfortable life amongst his tribesman to incarceration in a rebel prison.
On the Ground
The chief of staff of rebel military forces, General Abdel Fattah Younis, has been killed by gunmen along with two aides in eastern Libya after having been taken off the frontlines. (BBC, USAT, AJE) Initial reports suggested that the rebel commander had been arrested for having ties to the regime, and in the immediate aftermath of his death NTC Chief Mustafa Jalil has claimed that he was being brought to Benghazi for questioning on a "military matter." (AJE, AP) The death of Fattah Younis is of mixed significance; despite being the overall military commander of the rebel, his previous ties to the regime tainted his reputation amongst the rank-and-file of the rebel military forces.
The manner in which Younis died is of great signficance. Statements made by Jalil after Younis' death blamed "armed groups" in eastern Libya, though the motivations and allegiance of his assasins is unclear at this time. If groups backed by the regime are found to be responsible, this will be the first assasination of a rebel leader by regime forces in rebel-held eastern Libya since of the start of the conflict. This would indicate either the regime's capability to infiltrate eastern Libya, or the presence of armed local groups in eastern Libya who are willing and able to committ acts of violence on behalf of the regime. On the other hand, if Younis was killed by a competing rebel group, this could indicate a previously unknown degree of violent factionalism within the rebels.
Finally, the future actions of the soldiers who defected with Younis in February are unclear. Younis switched sides along with many of the soldiers under his command during the siege of Benghazi, playing a key role in driving the regime's forces from the rebel capitol. His men were among the few professional soldiers who joined the rebels, and their continued allegiance after the death of their former commander is uncertain.
In other news, several hundred rebels launched an expansive attack on Thursday morning in the western Nafusa Mountain with the objective of driving Qaddafi’s forces out of the low-lying foothills near the towns of Ghazaya and Nalut.(AJE, AP) This offensive appears to have two objectives: drive out regime artillery and armor beyond the point where they can shell the rebel town of Nalut, and seize control of the main road that extends east from the Tunisian border. The rebels are trying to open up a supply line between the Tunisian border and rebel-controlled town of Shakshuk; in their way is the regime-held town of al-Jawsh and the Qaddafi garrison at Ghazaya. Though this represents the largest and most coordinated attack in the mountains, a victory here would only have an indirect impact on Qaddafi’s hold on power nationwide.
Ground combat remains largely stagnant on the eastern front and in the rebel enclave outside of the western port city of Misrata. The eastern rebel offensive into the coastal city of Brega remains bogged down as opposition fighters try to clear a path through thousands of land mines placed by government forces. Despite slow progress since the rebel push into the city two weeks ago, attempts to clear Brega will be aided by the shipment of Qatari mine-clearing to Benghazi late last week.(WSJ) In the west, rebels based out of Misrata have made little progress in advancing west towards Tripoli and remained stopped just beyond the town of Dafniyah. (Reuters)
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