As French, British, and U.S forces escalated their air campaign against Qaddafi's loyalist troops on Sunday, rebel forces attempted and failed to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya while international support for Western intervention "appeared to weaken," according to The Washington Post. According to the latest news reports, the allies targeted air strikes appear to be mostly successful, with National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon telling reporters (cited by The Wall Street Journal) that "the efforts here have made a real difference in terms of the threat that was looming over Benghazi [the rebels capital]." He also noted that the actions "have prevented what could have been a catastrophe at Benghazi."
The rebel forces, however, don't appear to be making similar gains on the ground. The New York Times reports that rebel fighters have fallen back in their attempt to retake the town of Ajdabiya (described by the Times as a "strategically important town" because it straddles a highway and acts as a "chokepoint for forces trying to advance in either direction"). The rebel forces were rebuffed by Qaddafi forces tank and missile fire and were thrown into "deep disarray" from the retreat.
Last Friday, The Atlantic's Daniel Serwer noted that U.S. and western allies could expect similar tactics from Qaddafi as were demonstrated by the Serbian army during the Bosnian conflict. "As the Serbs reeled from the air attack, they took hostages and used them as human shields. They also parked armored vehicles near mosques and schools. We should expect Qaddafi to do likewise," he wrote. In Libya, the Times reports, British Tornado aircraft had to abort their mission targeting air defense systems when "a number of civilians" were reported to be "within the intended target area." The Times also notes that Reuters has reported Qaddafi forces using civilians as human shields in the city of Misurata.
As for the overarching diplomatic strategy of the allied forces, The Washington Post reports that international and domestic support for the campaign has "appeared to weaken" amidst scrutiny of the extent of the U.S. role. "The Arab League voiced concern about civilian deaths, and leading Republicans demanded clarity on the ultimate goals," the Post notes. Despite reports that missiles have damaged Qaddafi's Tripoli compound, the U.S. insists it is not targeting the leader at this time. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted Sunday by the Post as saying, "At this point I can guarantee he is not on the target list...We are not targeting his residence."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.