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Rebels (Thanks to Airstrikes) Gain Momentum in Libya
March 27, 2011

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The Libyan civil war goes on, with the tide now turning in favor of the rebels, thanks in large part to airstrikes by Western nations.

Led by the United States initially, the airstrikes continue but are now coordinated by NATO, featuring bombing raids from the U.S., France, the United Kingdom, and Qatar — the only Arab nation to join in the fray.

For several days, Western planes and ships have sent missiles after targets controlled by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including antiaircraft installations, troop and tank positions, and strongholds, including Gadhafi's living compound in Tripoli, the capital. The result has been a large pull-back of Gadhafi's forces, which were poised to begin a siege of the rebel-held Benghazi, the country's second-largest city and symbolic home to the resistance. Gadhafi's home city of Sirte was targeted for the first time, amid a flurry of other missile-based activity. Other countries have steadfastly refused to send in ground troops, citing the United Nations Security Council resolution enacted in response to Gadhafi's authorization of the killing of unarmed civilians.

Rebels have retaken large swaths of territory in all parts of the country, including strategically important Ras Lanouf, a major oil port that had changed hands a few times in recent weeks. The rebels have also pointed to an agreement with Qatar regarding oil distribution and dissemination. The problem with that kind of implementation, though, would be how to get and distribute the oil. Rebel forces have control of several key oil installations, but the means to get more oil to other countries to bring in money to finance the rebellion remained rather limited, for the moment. Tankers in port are already full, and key foreign workers have abandoned the oil installations in the wake of the sustained fighting. Rebel leaders, however, have promised that production would increase in the next few days.

One key rebel-held town in western Libya, Misrata, remained the scene of intense fighting, as airstrikes against the besieging forces had had some effect but not enough to stop the attacks that have punctuated that city for a few weeks now. Government forces, which have sped away from other cities after sustained airstrikes against them, have kept up the fight for Misrata.

For his part, Gadhafi has remained committed to defending his positions in the face of opposition from many other world leaders. The absence of a commitment from other nations to send troops, however, could well keep Gadhafi in power, especially because he continues to maintain support from people in Tripoli, the largest city in the country, and from his armed forces and supporting mercenaries.



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