Qaddafi's Soldiers Fight On

Although the London Conference views Qaddafi's departure as inevitable, on the battle front the rebels are on the run. NATO bombs Tripoli.

Aryeh Ben Hayim , | updated: 8:21 PM

Libyan rebel fighters
Libyan rebel fighters
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

There was a good degree of dissonance between the London conference on Libya that opened this afternoon, hosting the heads of NATO, the United Nations and 35 ministers as compared with developments on the battlefield in Libya.

Qaddafi's forces have stiffened around Sirte, a location that is both strategic and symbolic as it is Qaddafi's hometown. Qaddafi's forces, using superior fire power, have pushed the rebels back to nearly 150 kilometres east of Sirte. despite Western allies’ air strikes.

NATO-led forces bombed several military targets in the capital of Tripoli on Tuesday.

One rebel told foreign media that if the NATO-led forces provide air cover, the anti-Qaddafi forces can take over Sirte, located east of Tripoli.

To judge by the conference in London, however, the ouster of Qaddafi's regime appeared to be a foregone conclusion. On hand was Libya's insurgent Interim National council touting its vision for a future Democratic Libya, complete with a constitution, the right of franchise and political pluralism.

The British hosts of the conference, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron, proclaimed that the assembled had gathered to give the Libyan people an opportunity to determine their own future. They promised the support of the international coalition for as long as was necessary to protect the population from attacks by Qaddafi forces.

The progress by the insurgents at the start of coalition intervention, heartened by the airstrikes and the information, or perhaps deliberate disinformation, that Qaddafi was facing a cash shortage, had engendered the feeling that it would be possible to pressure Qaddafi to step down.

If not, it was felt, his supporters could be induced to bow to the inevitable and push him out in return for amnesty or sharing power.

Unfortunately, for the moment, Qaddafi's forces are not playing along. Government tanks and troops loyal to Qaddafi swept through rebel-held Misrata on Tuesday. As the Qaddafi forces were inside the city in civilian areas, it was problematic to dislodge them with air strikes. The insurgents attempted to describe the situation as akin to Benghazi and used threats of a potential massacre to prompt coalition intervention.