NATO under fire: Libyan rebels accuse alliance of slacking off
A veteran of the Libyan army Muftakh Abdul Ghani served his country all the way to retirement. Now he is fighting for the revolution and is among the few rebels at the front with military training and experience.
“Our forces are not even,” Ghani said. “We are ready to fight to death, but with these weapons we do not stand a chance against Gaddafi.”
Since NATO took control over the no-fly zone operation, its planes have made more than 1,000 sorties into Libya, including 400 attack missions. The alliance claims around a third of Gaddafi’s forces have now been destroyed.
However, despite help from the skies, on the ground the rebels are still taking a pounding.
“NATO has failed. There are civilians in Misrata and we daily have many martyrs and yes, they have been delaying taking proper actions against the Gaddafi troops,” said opposition spokesperson Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga.
For the rebels, taking the town of Brega means clearing the way west. However, just when it seemed they were at the doorstep of the oil-rich town, a new series of mortar attacks by Gaddafi’s forces triggered a chaotic retreat.
Just a week ago the opposition stronghold, the city of Benghazi, was filled with revolutionary euphoria. It seemed the entire city praised NATO for its support.
Now, with the frontline constantly moving back and forth, and the list of those killed or missing growing each day, the rage among many locals over the alliance’s current tactics seems to be rising as well.
Moreover, Reuters reported NATO’s planes mistakenly attacking the rebels’ positions 20km away from Brega on Thursday. Libyan doctors in Ajdabiya, a city some 50-60km east of Brega, say that at least 13 people have been killed in this attack.
However, eyewitnesses to the attack claim that the planes did not resemble the coalition forces, but in fact belonged to Gaddafi and killed at least 40 rebels.
Several tanks have also been destroyed or damaged according to AP, while the rebels have immediately started pulling their forces back to Ajdabiya.
According to RT’s Egor Piskunov, who is now located in Benghazi, right after this assault in Brega’s vicinity, the opposition forces near the city of Ajdabiya were reported to have been attacked and forced to retreat in chaos. The army was also seen evacuating. There is speculation that the shelling of Ajdabiya is continuing both at its western and eastern gates, reports Piskunov.
Driven by the fear of advancing Gaddafi forces, several thousand rebels and Ajdabiya inhabitants are now fleeing from the city in the direction of Benghazi, Itar-Tass reports.
Protests against NATO actions are becoming a common scene in Benghazi. Many are accusing the alliance of failing to protect civilians. Rebels are not asking for help anymore, they are demanding it.
“What are they waiting for, for Gaddafi to kill us all?” said opposition activist Abdul Nasr Al Sharif. “We demand a new UN resolution which would allow arming us!”
However, experts say arming the rebels alone would not help swing the war.
“What the rebels need is not so much arms. They can use arms, but without training they are not going to be able to do anything,” said author and journalist Barry Lando.
Former Belgian Senator Pierre Galand believes that even today there is room for negotiation between the sides of the conflict.
“I believe in negotiation,” he said. “I believe that even today you can implement negotiation in Tripoli, forcing Gaddafi to change the unacceptable situation in his country.”
Reports are now surfacing that the US and Egypt are covertly training anti-Gaddafi forces, going beyond the mandate of the UN resolution that established the no fly-zone.