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Tuesday, May 31, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Major defections said to thin Gadhafi's forces
to '20 percent of capacity'

LONDON — The military of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi is said to have been weakened by the defection of senior officers.


Up to 120 Libyan officers and soldiers were said to have defected from the Gadhafi regime in late May. Opposition sources said the Libyan troops were encouraged to defect by NATO, which has been fighting the Tripoli regime for more than two months.

"No more than 20 percent of military capacity remains," Gen. Malud Halasi, one of the defectors, said.

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On May 30, the Italian government presented eight Libyan officers who recently defected. They said this comprised part of a group of as many as 120 troops who fled the North African country.

The officers who appeared in Rome consisted of five generals, two colonels and a major. They told a news conference organized by the Italian government that the Gadhafi regime was rapidly weakening and that officers were choosing to defect rather than fire on civilian protesters, Middle East Newsline reported.

"There are no more than a dozen generals left," Halasi said.

Halasi said Gadhafi commanded the loyalty of no more than several hundred soldiers. At the start of the rebellion, the Libyan military was said to number at least 20,000.

Another defector, Gen. Yahmet Saleh, said Gadhafi was relying on two brigades to secure his regime in Tripoli. Saleh said the two brigades were the last units that were still searching and arresting suspected opposition activists.

Opposition sources confirmed reports that Libyan soldiers and officers fled their units. They said at least 34 of them escaped to neighboring Tunisia and were offered help by NATO states.

Gadhafi has been alarmed by the defections, the sources said. They said Gadhafi has replaced senior officers with his relatives.

"Gadhafi's troops have already collapsed on the Western Mountains, which have come under the full control of the revolutionary forces," Saleh said.

Still, NATO does not believe that the military defections would lead to the collapse of the Tripoli regime. Officials said the Libyan rebels were incapable of overcoming the well-equipped security forces, and that the only option was to oust Gadhafi.

"We hope that all of this happens as soon as possible, but this depends on Col. Gadhafi," NATO military council chief Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola said. "It is he that has to see there is no other way out."

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