A dramatically sudden turnaround has given rebels control of villages surrounding Tripoli, where Muammar Qaddafi is preparing for what may be his “last stand.”
The White House categorically stated Monday, "I think it's becoming increasingly clear that Qaddafi's days are numbered," and added that the eccentric dictator’s situation “grows more extreme" day by day, as the country's rebels are advancing toward the capital city of Tripoli.
Six months after Qaddafi withstood what seemed to be a certain successful revolution by the tattered and disorganized opposition forces, the rebels, with NATO support, have virtually cut off Tripoli.
Their sudden advantage apparently has had an impact on Qaddafi, who called on his supporters Monday to fight the “rats” and "liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and NATO." American defense officials reported that forces loyal to Qaddafi fired a Scud missile 50 miles east of his home, but it exploded harmlessly in an open desert area.
An unconfirmed claim by the rebels stated that they took control of Garyan, south of the capital, an accomplishment that would cut the remaining main route to Tripoli. They already have severed the coastal highway by capturing control of the coastal town of Zawiyah, which was bombed by NATO planes.
In Qaddafi’s favor is the apparent lack of capability of the rebels to launch an overwhelming attack on his base in Tripoli, where he maintains wide support.
Secret negotiations between rebels and Qaddafi's officials have been taking place in Djerba. His spokesman denied “media lies” about negotiations, however, and reiterated Qaddafi’s pledge never to leave Libya.
"The Libyan regime may or may not collapse forthwith, but it now looks like it will happen sooner or later," Daniel Korski, a fellow at the European Council for Foreign Relations, told the London Telegraph.
If negotiations do not put an end to the long drawn-out war, a battle over Tripoli would likely be very costly in terms of lives and lead to an aftermath of bitter political struggles.