COMMENTARY | With a lively resistance movement on the ground and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the air, it would seem as though Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi was about to fall from power. Yet months into an increasingly volatile situation, Gadhafi has continued to hold onto power. The following are the top three reasons why Gadhafi hasn’t been forced out yet.
Members of NATO disagree on what the final objective is:
The stated mission of NATO in this operation is to carry out UN Resolution 1973, which gave the permission for a coalition to be created to enforce a No-Fly zone. The area of contention between the various nation-states involved in Operation Dawn is contained within article 4 of the resolution:
“4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory…”
The main issue of contention is what it means to protect civilians. While the United States feels that it’s out of the scope of the resolution to directly attack Gadhafi’s troops indiscriminately, the United Kingdom and France are pushing for more action. Because of this tactical disagreement, it remains unclear what NATO intends to do in the long run, causing the coalition to become more disorganized as the weeks pass.
The conflict on the ground is largely split across tribal lines:
While the reports coming out of Libya of Gadhafi’s forces committing acts of violence have been verified and are a cause for concern, it’s important to recognize that Libya is split up by tribal ties. The tribes loyal to Gadhafi have remained loyal to him while those that never had as strong of ties to begin with have started to break off. Because military units tend to be separated by tribal status, it can be explained to some degree why certain units have defected and joined the rebellion while others have not.
Gadhafi’s soldiers have better equipment than the rebels:
If the rebels are a rag-team group of young men trying to fight for their freedom, then Gadhafi’s forces are a well equipped arsenal working to put them down. Another issue that has trickled down from the disagreements over UN Resolution 1973 is whether or not to arm the rebellion. Bombing positions that have attacked civilians is one thing; arming rebels so that they can fight back is another.
Unless the stalemate over whether or not to arm the rebellion is decided, then the rebels will remain at a significant tactical disadvantage. For every plane or tank that the rebels manage to get hold of, Gadhafi’s forces have 10 more laying in wait for the next attack.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization Website
UN Security Council Resolution 1973, Libya–Council on Foreign Relations-03/17/11
NATO says Gadhafi must go but won’t force him out-Associated Press-Matthew Lee and Geir Moulson-04/14/11
Special Report:Libya’s Tribal Dynamics-STRATFOR-02/25/11
Gadhafi Defiant despite NATO airstrikes in Tripoli-Associated Press-Karin Laub-04/14/11