News / Africa

Libyan Rebel Strategy Depends on Outside Military Help

This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011
This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011

Multimedia

Elizabeth Arrott

The admission by French officials that they have supplied weapons to rebels in western Libya could help explain the opposition's recent territorial gain. The advance has been one of the few breakthroughs in the rebels' fight against the government's professional army. 

The rebel leadership has spent four months trying to form a cohesive plan to guide its enthusiastic, but largely amateur fighting force.  The results have been mixed. 

"We need to organize ourselves," said Jalal elGalal, a media spokesman for the Transitional National Council. "We need better armaments and we need a strategic plan to tackle on open plains.  It's difficult, and it's going to be costly.  But it's a price the Libyans are willing to pay."

Stalemate

With the rebels bogged down in Brega in the east and around Misrata, their only advance against government forces appears to be in the western mountains, where the opposition has the advantage of French help and higher ground. ElGalal fears even that momentum could falter.

"The stalemate is going to remain on open ground simply because the armaments they have are much superior to what we have," he said. "Although we have the cause [and] we have the will, we can't match them as far as the armaments are concerned."

French officials say recent weapons and munitions help to the rebels keeps within a U.N. mandate to protect civilians - and does not violate sanctions.

UN embargo

French aid notwithstanding, the United Nations has placed an arms embargo for Libya that has hampered the rebels.

An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011
An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011

On top of that, when government forces withdrew from now opposition-held positions, they took much of the best equipment with them, leaving the rebels to make do with whatever they can find.

At a military camp outside Benghazi, volunteers are becoming expert recyclers.  A group of men huddle atop an old tank.  A few wrenches with a crowbar, the lift of a crane, and off comes the gun turret. In its place, they fit an anti-aircraft gun, which they hope will give their fighters a longer range of attack.  Military liaison Adelrahman Busin points to the ripped out turret, with the gunner's seat beneath painfully exposed, and says it's set to be mounted on a pick-up truck.  

"Nothing goes to waste," said Busin. " Everything is used.  Even that piece that just came off there will be sent to Misrata and used as a cannon."  

Can do spirit

In another room, men are putting the finishing touches on an improvised rocket launcher.  A piece of string secures a tea towel around one end - padding for the fighter's shoulder. Busin points out that the safety is a switch from a child's toy car.

A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011
A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011

"This has been specifically designed for anti-aircraft missiles," he explained. "This was literally made in someone's home.  The actual aircraft missiles - you've seen them, the round ones, that come off helicopters and mounted on top of trucks - they've custom-made a single rocket launcher for those same rockets."

This can-do spirit is seen in other rebel supply lines.  At the Kalha restaurant, owner Sami Shakmak doesn't mind that recent renovations are obscured by a small army of volunteers.

"We found a gap, the army, they haven't got any food," said  Shakmak. "The people on the front line haven't got any food.  So for them to actually stay in their places we needed to feed them.  So we started from there really and it just escalated."

Donations provide relief

With donations from various charities, they manage to turn out more than 20,000 meals a day.

It's this kind of effort that has taken Libya's opposition from political protesters to defenders against a brutal government crackdown, and now a fighting force trying to advance on the capital. But they recognize they need more.  

"I'm hoping the generals here, the chief of staff, the defense minister, are working on something with the military advisers from the international community and I hope something will fall in place pretty soon," said spokesman elGalal.

Even elGalal admits "that might sound a little optimistic."

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid