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Friday, March 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report: Opposition seen having the upper hand
in protracted battle for Libya

WASHINGTON — The opposition's new military has demonstrated that it can overcome forces loyal to the regime of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi, a report said.


The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has determined that Gadhafi's forces have been unable to consolidate gains in their offensive against the opposition. In a report authored by military analyst Jeffrey White, the institute, however, envisioned a protracted war between Gadhafi and the rebels.

"At the moment, the military balance lies somewhat in favor of the opposition," the report, titled "Fighting in Libya: The Military Balance," said. "Regime forces have suffered significant losses in weapons systems and personnel and have had difficulty retaking areas."

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The report, released on March 2, said Gadhafi's military has virtually collapsed and the regime was being protected by mercenaries and other security personnel. At the same time, the opposition was succeeding in using little more than light weapons to repel Gadhafi troops.

"The opposition has since become better armed and organized thanks to the participation of former regime military personnel," the report said.

White said Gadhafi has used all of his military assets against the rebels. He cited main battle tanks, anti-aircraft guns as well as fighter-jets and attack helicopters.

As a result, Gadhafi continued to control key areas of western Libya. His forces were also said to be able to coordinate operations, maintain a supply line and deploy in numerous areas.

"Yet its limited ability to retake other areas suggests difficulties in massing and coordinating large forces and a lack of willingness among certain personnel to engage in serious fighting," the report said.

Gadhafi has been using at least five units against the opposition. The report cited the conventional military, special forces such as the Khamis Brigade, militias, mercenaries as well as civilians given light weapons.

The opposition has used civilians as well as soldiers who defected from the regime. Some of the units have acquired main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank missiles. But the report said the opposition remains disorganized.

"The fight for the cities is the primary struggle, but airfields have emerged as important places from which the regime can assert residual control, such as supporting air strikes and troop movements," the report said. "Gadhafi apparently seeks to establish and secure an area of control from Marsa Al Burayqah in the east to the Tunisian border."

The report said Gadhafi has proven more resilient than expected. But White said the opposition, with international support, appears to have the upper hand.

"It has great determination, the support of a significant part of the population — although not all of it — and control over many key cities," the report said. "Meanwhile, the regime has lost much of its military capacity and has no way to rebuild it, at least in the short term. With no real foreign allies to call upon, it is essentially fighting to retain control of an enclave within the country."

Still, White expected a long war in Tripoli. He said Gadhafi could offer to negotiate and promise reform in an attempt to divide the opposition.

"Increasing casualties or a protracted conflict would increase pressure for external military intervention," the report said.

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