HistoricalMullet: Update on Sirte

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It seems that efforts are concentrating in and around the Sirte area in Libya.

This article describes the pro-Gaddahfi troops besieging Misarata (which is inside the “ring”) leaving to move to the east and reinforce Sirte. Meanwhile this report talks about the regular Army who has defected to the opposition taking over operations in and around Sirte, and moving Battalions into place for a push westward into the city. This quote by the rebel commander is telling:

As the zest and aggression of the volunteers begins to wane, regular soldiers who have defected to the opposition are starting to appear in greater numbers. Trained infantry and heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, are being sent to the front line.

“The armed forces will advance now to lead the fight from Bin Jawad to Sirte, from there the youth will continue the mission,” said Major General Ahmed al-Gitriani, a rebel commander and former army officer.

That sounds, if you’re an optimist, like using skirmishers to soften and probe defenses before moving in the heavy troops to break the line, then send out the skirmishers again to move rapidly in exploit of any break. If you’re a cynic, or looking for possible near-near enemy strategies; you send the youth protesters in to get chewed up; preserving your own Army troops to smash through what’s left, claim the field, and be the strongest intact force left at the end of Phase I. The commander is also talking about contacts with tribes (who are the bedrock of Libyan politics) and currently “loyal” soldiers; that’s either indications of a plan to get them to stand aside (as the CIA did to Iraqi commanders in GWII), or just good old fashioned information warfare.  One wrinkle in his plans might be the short supplies of gasoline available to the rebels, rumored to be 7days or less. Ironic that in a country full of oil, you still need refineries to run to turn it into usable fuels.

I think western media is over focusing on air-strikes and what’s going on at oil depots. Rushing to comment how a plane has bombed this location, or was seen circling that refinery before launching an attack.  Air strikes are sexier than infantry combat, and obviously the cost of gas is near and dear to our hearts. But I think they’re focusing on the wrong things, perhaps in an effort to steer/ guide the no-fly-zone debate.  If air power alone could’ve solved an insurgency, we’d have been out of Iraq and Afghanistan years ago. I don’t think Gaddahfi is suddenly exempt from this calculus.

Tim C.

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