Why Qaddafi's Death Matters

The death of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi lifts a huge burden off the country's transitional government.

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The likely death of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi lifts a huge burden from the country's transitional government. The State Department has yet to confirm the deposed dictator's fate, but National Transitional Council members tell Reuters and CNN that Qaddafi was killed shortly after his capture near his hometown of Sirt, and Al-Jazeera is now showing a corpse, which it says is the fallen leader. The war in Libya had dragged on longer than many expected with a war of attirtion between Qaddafi loyalists and interim government forces. Here's what reporters and analysts are saying about the importance of the capture of Qaddafi and the fall of Sirt.

Only now can the transitional government begin governing, writes Time's Vivienne Walt, reporting from Libya:

The rebels have said for weeks that they will be able to declare the war over when Sirt — the last Gaddafi stronghold — falls. And if indeed they have captured or killed Gaddafi himself, Libyan officials say, it will allow the country to finally move beyond the revolution, and begin rebuilding the country after months of war. "It means we will have a transitional government, then we will have an election in a few months," Mahmoud Shammam, the NTC's head of media, told the BBC on Thursday.

This ends a battle that was much longer than expected, reports Kareem Fahim at The New York Times:

The battle for Surt was supposed to have been a postscript to the Libyan conflict, but for weeks soldiers loyal to Colonel Qaddafi, fiercely defended the city, first weathering NATO airstrikes and then repeated assaults by anti-Qaddafi fighters. Former rebel leaders were caught off guard by the depth of the divisions in western Libya, where the colonel’s policy of playing favorites and stoking rivalries has resulted in a series of violent confrontations.

Surt emerged as the stage for one of the war’s bloodiest fights, killing and injuring scores on both sides, decimating the city and leading to fears that the weak transitional leaders would not be able to unify the country.

We should still be cautious, writes Spencer Ackerman at Wired:

Bitter experience over the last decade ought to provide major caution that insurgencies can develop and flourish even without key leaders. (Although, in fairness, it would seem to be harder for a revanchist insurgency to coalesce after its ostensible leader is neutralized.) Libya is flooded with uncontrolled weapons, ripe for the taking.

It's still a victory, however, and the Libyans and Obama deserve praise, writes Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In this case, a low-risk policy of limited intervention has helped to remove a brutal dictator with a long history of sponsoring international terrorism.It has given the people of Libya the opportunity to create something much better for themselves, and providing that opportunity is about all the non-Arab world can hope to accomplish in that region. We can help, but THEY have to actually do it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.