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Thursday, July 28, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Libyan rebels don't share NATO pessimism

CAIRO — Libyan rebels, despite gloomy assessments within NATO, have reported progress in their campaign to oust the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.


Libyan rebel commanders said their force has become better organized and equipped over the last month. They said NATO air strikes and training have enabled the rebels to advance toward Tripoli and other regime-held areas.

"We will resolve the situation soon," Maj. Gen. Abdul Fatah Yunis, commander of the National Liberation Army, said.

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The general, whose views reflected those of other rebel commanders, voiced his assessment amid frustration within NATO. Senior NATO officials said the Libyan rebels have failed to make significant gains despite daily air strikes on Gadhafi by the Western alliance.

"We are generally in a stalemate," U.S. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Yunis, a former Libyan interior minister, said the rebels were in control of most of the strategic oil city of Brega, Middle East Newsline reported. He said Gadhafi has poured in forces to prevent the rebel takeover of a city regarded as crucial for the oil economy of Libya.

"We have full control of the area apart from its western approach and are on the way of seizing control of it in the coming few days," Yunis told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily.

In an interview on July 25, Yunis denied reports that he was injured in an attack by Gadhafi forces. The general said the rebels were also advancing toward Ras Lanuf and Sirte.

"We are advancing constantly and fighting despite the big difference in the number of forces and level of armament," Yunis said. "There is no comparison between the level of the armament of Gadhafi's army and us, and yet we are achieving important and continuous victories."

[On July 28, Libyan rebels launched an offensive on Ghezaia along the border with Tunisia. The rebels said their forces were equipped with Russian-origin main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and rockets.]

For his part, Yunis did not provide any timetable for a rebel victory. He stressed that the largely untrained rebel force was still fighting with light weapons while Gadhafi's military was being supplied by Algeria. The general said the rebels captured an Algerian weapons ship destined for Gadhafi's forces.

"Algeria has received a final warning from NATO, the Western alliance, and the European Union, and this support should stop," Yunis said. "We will reveal the conclusive evidence when Libya is liberated."

Yunis said the NATO mission was wearing down Gadhafi's army. He also cited support from Saudi Arabia.

"It is certainly playing a good role and helping us," Yunis said. "You see it attacking Gadhafi targets and forces on several fronts to protect the civilians and wear down this regime militarily while we take care of the rest."

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