Coalition air strikes make no difference as Gaddafi’s forces push rebels further away from Tripoli and prepare to crush the defensive position – the city of Ajdabiya – on their way to the rebels’ last stronghold Benghazi.
This is probably why US President Barack Obama has reportedly signed secret orders allowing the CIA to carry out covert missions inside Libya.
Teams of operatives are thought to have been gathering intelligence for military air strikes and setting up links with rebels.
Despite coalition forces continuing to bomb targets in Libya – there have been air strikes on military bases in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Tripoli recently – the frontline seems to have been pushed further back.
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Troops loyal to Gaddafi are now in the city of Ajdabiya, just 70 kilometers west of the rebels’ stronghold Benghazi.
The coalition forces are bombing pro-Gaddafi troops near Ajdabiya which suggests the coalition fears Gaddafi forces are closing in on the town and that they do not want Ajdabiya to fall.
The terrain that rebels are fighting on is against them. The battlefield near the city is essentially one highway in the desert, it is very hard for them to get supplies and certainly at this stage it does seem that the coalition air strikes are making little difference.
On the ground, Gaddafi is winning the war but he has to withstand a psychological blow – his foreign minister and close associate Mussa Kussa has defected and is currently in discussions with British intelligence. Kussa has been Libya’s foreign minister since 2009 and before that he headed Libyan intelligence for some 15 years. The opposition nicknamed him “the man of death”.
Mussa Kussa has been Gaddafi’s most trusted right-hand man, and he has been described as a shrewd operator by the international community. The question now is what does Mussa Kussa know that has caused him to defect and just how important is that information for the coalition partners.
As for reports that the US is considering arming the Libyan rebels, it is now a legal question as to whether or not UN Resolution 1973 actually allows it.
The rebels have shown themselves as lacking good leadership and seem loosely organized, without the knowledge to use the weapons that they do have.
They have surface-to-air missiles and they have used them, but only managed to shoot down one of their own aircraft. So the question is now being asked: if the international community does have plans to arm these people, will the weapons actually be falling into the hands of people capable of using them?
NATO has taken full command of all military operations in Libya. Many believe, not only in Tripoli but within the international community, that the scenario in Libya differs completely from the Arab revolution the world has seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
Ironically, Tripoli now says it might be a good thing that the discussion on the Libyan conflict is now on the international agenda because it forces the international community to find out who is among the ranks of the anti-Gaddafi coalition.
The US has admitted that Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are present in Libya – within the rebel groups – something that the official Tripoli has been saying from the very beginning, that the revolt has been inspired by forces from outside of the country. That throws into doubt the legitimacy of the whole operation of the international coalition.