U.S. and European missions have cleared the rebels' way forward, but their next steps will require more than bombs
AJDABIA and BREGA, Libya -- The Saturday after U.S. and European air strikes destroyed the tanks Qaddafi had sent to surround Ajdabia, the mood was high among the Libyans who came in from elsewhere to survey the damage in the town. Next to a ravaged tank at the outskirts of the city lay the scorched corpse of one of Qaddafi's soldier. Someone jerked away the blanket covering the fire-blackened skull and carefully placed the insignia, whose two green stripes and wreath-encircled tank identified the man as having been a corporal in the Armed Guardian Unit of the Libyan Jamahiriyya's army, on top of the blanket. A crowd of civilians photographed the sight before jumping on a destroyed tank, one of about 20 littering the road leading to Ajdabia.
Twelve days ago, Ajdabia, the strategic crossroads between the opposition capital of Benghazi and Qaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli, was firmly in rebel hands. Qaddafi hit it with air power and ground troops and took over in a sweep many feared would ultimately extend to Benghazi. Now the streets of the once-thriving town of some 150,000 residents are largely empty, save for a few men strolling who, one Libyan from Benghazi noted, were suspiciously clad in sweatpants with the logo of the Tripoli football club. "Who would wear that here? We're in Benghazi football club territory," said 26-year-old Mohammed Benghouzzi.