News / Africa

Challenges Ahead as Libyan Rebels Advance on Tripoli

Libyan rebel fighters celebrate as they drive into the coastal city of Zawiyah, August 15, 2011.
Libyan rebel fighters celebrate as they drive into the coastal city of Zawiyah, August 15, 2011.


Douglas Mpuga

It has been six months since the outbreak of the revolt against Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s 42 years in power. But now the ill-trained and ill-equipped rebels from the western mountains have taken much of the strategic coastal town of Zawiyah, with its enormous oil refinery, just 30 miles west of Tripoli. There are reports that they control it completely.

By Friday the rebels had also taken Gharyan, an important outpost along the trade route to the south.

The rebels are advancing and changing the balance of power in Libya, says Dr. Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East and author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.

He says what the rebels are achieving now are the victories they wanted to achieve in the first two months of the conflict.

Phares says despite these gains by the rebels, Tripoli and its surroundings still has a large number of Gadhafi forces and equipment which the rebels have to overcome.

“Unless Gadhafi is taken out or he decides to leave, the rebels still face a big battle before they secure the control of the country,” he said.

Phares notes the important role of NATO forces in the conflict in Libya. “Without NATO air force superiority the rebels couldn’t have made those inroads. It is a war where NATO is opening the path and the rebels are measuring themselves against the remnants of the Gadhafi surviving forces, although the rebels have hardened,” he said.

The rebels are vowing to take Tripoli before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan ends in late August.

As long as Gadhafi is still on the ground and leading his forces, Phares said, “I don’t think we are at the end of the conflict by force by the end of this month or even by the end of this summer.”

He points out that “when and if Gadhafi quits the command of his forces, those forces will become the new rebels.”

He says, even if the current Benghazi-based national transitional council forces take over, they will be faced with a very strong guerrilla force.

Another challenge the national transitional council faces if it takes power, he adds, is whether the islamists militias within the rebel ranks will disarm and give their weapons to the Libyan army. “It is difficult to imagine that militias who obtained power during a war will let go easily,” he said

Phares says as the NATO mandate draws to a close there is going to be a serious diplomatic battle between the United States and Russia on the way forward.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration said it was drawing up plans to evacuate thousands of migrants stranded in Tripoli because exit points have been cut off after a spate of rebel successes.

You May Like

US Companies Pledge Action on Climate Change

Goals include reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent, reducing water usage by 80 percent, and buying 100 percent renewable energy

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs