Military Analyst Nathan Hughes discusses Libyan rebel forces' inability to mount a meaningful resistance against loyalist forces, as well as the effect this has on the international community's options for dealing with Libya.
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Gadhafi's forces are rolling back rebel positions in sustained military operations, simultaneously consolidating control over former rebel strongholds along the western coast while advancing eastward along the Gulf of Sidra. At the beginning of the month, signs of indecisive skirmishes and a potential stalemate began to emerge between Gadhafi's forces in the west and opposition forces in the east. Since then, loyalist forces have begun to seize the initiative and gain momentum in their operations pushing eastward. As Gadhafi's forces have advanced eastward through Ras Lanuf and to Marsa el Brega, while simultaneously consolidating control over Zawiya, and closing on Misurata in the west. There has been little sign of meaningful military resistance from the rebels. What initially appeared like indecisive thrusts and raids into rebel-held territory are increasingly looking like sustained and decisive assaults backed by armored artillery. What isn't exactly clear right now is what sort of resistance these forces have faced. Clearly, the rebels have not produced sustained resistance or slowed the advance of Gadhafi's forces. However, it's not clear how much fighting there has been, compared to how much Gadhafi's forces are merely continuing to move eastward and consolidating a route where there has been little resistance at all. The place to watch right now is the town of Ajdabiya. From there, nothing stands between loyalist forces and the rebel capitol of Benghazi. From here, the road actually splits, running directly to Benghazi, and, also, the rebel-held stronghold at Tobruk. This is the last energy export facility still decisively in rebel hands. It also complicates the battle problem for the rebels, whereas Gadhafi's forces have been advancing eastward on a single axis: the road along the coast. This now gives the loyalist forces the opportunity to advance on two separate axes, and it very seriously complicates the rebel's defensive problem. Even if Gadhafi does pacify the cities in the east — and that alone could well take months — the rebels retain the opportunity of turning to an insurgency, especially now that they've become well-armed with Libyan military supplies. Meanwhile, the international response has gotten more vocal, but the incentive remains to talk big and act small. It's far from clear what military intervention of any sort, or military support of any sort, might actually achieve in Libya. The situation is rapidly evolving, and the rebel defensive lines have already collapsed in many cases. So it's not clear what's to be gained from any sort of actual involvement at this point. The problem for the international community is that at the beginning of the month, they were beginning to see a split stalemate scenario between east and west or even post-Gadhafi scenarios. The reverse is becoming increasingly possible, where Gadhafi may again return to power and control of the entire Libyan state. And so, the challenge may now be for the international community to backtrack, if they want to be able to deal with the consolidated Libya controlled by Gadhafi once more.
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