A few days of air strikes against the armed forces and strategic positions of Col. Moammar Gadhafi have not crystallized the situation in Libya.
Following a United Nations Security Resolution allowing for a no-fly zone and "all necessary force" to stop Gadhafi's forces from firing on civilians, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom launched more than 100 missiles at locations across the country, targeting air defense stations, naval bases, collections of troops and tanks, and even Gadhafi's compound in the capital, Tripoli. The result, though, has not been a reversal of the tide of what is now being called by many a civil war. Rather, many international observers have concluded that the struggle will indeed be what Gadhafi predicted: "a long war."
Gadhafi, who has been in charge of the country for more than 40 years, has control of most of the western part of the country, including Tripoli. Most of the armed forces are loyal to Gadhafi, as are large numbers of imported mercenaries and militia members, most of whom are well-equipped with weapons and training. The opposition, by contrast, is often ill-equipped and ill-trained, long on manpower and short on firepower. The result, in the past several days, has been the steady re-seizure of key cities from Tripoli westward. Already, the day the Western airstrikes started, Gadhafi's tanks and troops were massed around Benghazi, the country's second-largest city and symbolic headquarters of the resistance movement. The rebels defending the city were convinced that without outside intervention, they would have to surrender, despite their worry that they would meet the safe fate as the rebels in Misrata, a western town controlled by rebels but the target of a recent vicious assault by government forces that left dozens dead and hundreds injured. Government troops and tanks have pulled back more than 60 miles from Benghazi after the airstrikes, but the poorly equipped rebels could made no headway with an aborted counterattack.
The situation has been different as well, depending on the source. State-run television has consistently reported that Gadhafi's forces were retaking large swathes of rebel-held territory and that support for the government was widespread. Further, state-run television had reported that Western airstrikes had killed civilians. Statements from rebels told a different story, of brutal retaking of towns in which snipers gunned down unarmed civilians.
The Arab League, a collection of 22 countries in the region, reiterated its support for the no-fly zone and for Western efforts to stabilize Gadhafi's drive toward Benghazi. The leaders of France, the U.K., and the U.S., however were not so united.
U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that U.S. forces would not land on the ground in Libya and that U.S. airstrikes would soon diminish but that the overall goal of the operation was the removal of Gadhafi as leader of Libya. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the U.K., disagreed, saying that regime change was not what the airstrikes were intended to do. Spokespeople for the French government expressed their hope that the Libyan government would collapse of its own accord.
Patrolling the no-fly zone were planes from Belgium, Denmark, France, and Spain. Norway, however, announced that it would wait to launch its warplanes until it heard a consistent message from the U.S.-European alliance.
The U.N. Security Council announced that it would meet again, at the request of Gadhafi, and that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would address the Council.