Behind the front lines, civilian volunteers form an ad hoc supply chain to keep the rebels fighting
Rebels carry fuel and supplies to the front. By Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
BREGA, Libya -- It's not often in war that fighters roll to the front with nothing and come back with a bag of food, having eaten a hot meal and slept in warm blankets in the desert maybe 75 kilometers from the enemy's Grad missiles. Also rare is when that pack of rebels (or "revolutionaries," as those in Libya term themselves) organizes a successful three-front desert counteroffensive against the government's forces. But this is the war as Libya's relentless uprising has come to know it.
The last week has seen losses and gains on the elastic front line that runs west of Ajdabia towards Sirte. Despite vast discrepancies between rebel forces and Qaddafi's, and fears that Benghazi would be attacked again, Ajdabia remains safely in rebel control. The western front isn't quiet, but it is well supplied and now home to the beginnings of an actual army.
Tuesday night the rebels lost Ras Lanouf, for at least the second, and possibly the third, time. At a defense encampment close to the now-deserted oil town, volunteer rebel soldiers testified to a haphazard, homemade command structure and a lot of heart. "We just follow our feeling of where to go," said Abdulwahid Agoury, a 28-year-old accountant from Benghazi who decides where to drive the Hilux that also carries his two cousins and a couple of friends. Adel Sanfaz, a Kalashnikov-toting grocer and father of five, said he and his crew rely on walkie-talkies to coordinate movements. "Qaddafi has more soldiers and more equipment. We just go back and forth -- when he uses heavy artillery, we retreat. When he stops, we advance."