Gadhafi On His Way Out?

NBC News is reporting that Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi may be preparing to leave Libya as rebel forces once again advance on Tripoli:

Moammar Gadhafi is making preparations for a departure from Libya with his family for possible exile in Tunisia, U.S. officials have told NBC News, citing intelligence reports.

One official suggested it was possible that Gadhafi would leave within days, NBC News reported.

The information obtained by NBC News follows a series of optimistic statements this week from U.S. officials that Gadhafi would soon give up the five-month-old fight and and leave Libya.

In an on-camera forum at the National Defense University this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “I think the sense is that Gadhafi’s days are numbered.”

The officials could provide no further details as to conditions or precise timing for Gadhafi’s departure, NBC said, and the news report emphasized that there was no guarantee that Gadhafi would follow through on any plans to flee.

Gadhafi is becoming more isolated in the capital, Tripoli.

Rebel fighters are closing in from the west and the south while NATO controls the seas to the north. The opposition is in control of most of the eastern half of the country and has declared Benghazi, 620 miles east of Tripoli, as its de facto capital.

Rebel forces have managed to surround Tripoli and appear to be attempting to cut off supplies and fuel to trigger a collapse, NBC News reported. Families were seen driving away from the city.

Foreigner are also attempting to evacuate Tripoli as the rebels advance and the fighting intensifies. Assuming this is the end for Gadhafi, which is by no means certain considering he’s seemingly been at the end of his rope before, the next question is what happens next in Libya. The rebel forces don’t necessarily seem prepared to take over control of the country, and there’s always the possibility that the post-Gadhafi Libya will become the scene of tribal warfare akin to Somalia. Except this time it’ll be much closer to Europe.

 

FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Gaddafi’s done. He’s been done for months, the only question now is just how much he’s willing to play Hitler-In-The-Bunker, getting people killed in a lost cause.

    The rebels have cut roads and pipelines, the Gaddafi forces are fighting on but walking backward. The rebels have the east, west and south of Tripoli. The outcome hasn’t been in doubt since Gaddafi was forced to give up on Misurata. Even before that he was holding a very weak hand.

    Of course it will be vital to Republicans and to far lefties to 1) Diminish the accomplishment, 2)
    Distract attention and 3) Worry a great deal about the legal aspects.

    Nevertheless, what will have been accomplished is this: 1) The fall of a tyrant. (Said fall brought about under legal cover of the UN.) 2) The realization by France and the UK that they have been, shall we say, lax in preparing to play big-time geopolitics. 3) A second example of what can be accomplished with low-risk Western efforts carried out in concert with local forces. (The toppling of the Taliban being an earlier example.)

    And it will all have been done with zero American deaths.

    Contrast Obama’s mini-war in Libya with Mr. Bush’s old-style war in Iraq. In both cases we will have knocked off a tyrant and allowed some other as yet undetermined creature to take over. But Mr. Obama’s version cost a tiny fraction as much, and cost us no US dead.

    So that will be Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi done in by Barack Hussein Obama at a cost of zero American lives.

  2. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Shorter Doug: Don’t count your chickens …

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    I’m not counting any future chickens. God only knows what clown college will take over Libya. Given their history I’m not expecting much. The interesting things to me are the possible effect on NATO, the UK and France, and the fascinating evolution in warfare. In both Libya and Afghanistan Phase One we were able to prevail using what were (for us) relatively small applications of force in concert with previously ineffectual or even non-existent local forces.

    The effect globally may be fascinating, especially through Iranian eyes. The Iranians saw the mess in Iraq and must have assumed they were now relatively safe given our strained commitment in Iraq, our susceptibility to public pressure from casualty counts, the weariness of the American people. In fact, just the opposite of what we had hoped for — a US presence permanently at Iran’s door.

    Now they’re seeing that all we need to mess their lives up pretty well are air and naval forces, drones, and a local militia-level force, and that we can not be easily bled. That’s an interesting development from their POV.

  4. @michael reynolds:

    Nevertheless, what will have been accomplished is this: 1) The fall of a tyrant. (Said fall brought about under legal cover of the UN.) 2) The realization by France and the UK that they have been, shall we say, lax in preparing to play big-time geopolitics. 3) A second example of what can be accomplished with low-risk Western efforts carried out in concert with local forces. (The toppling of the Taliban being an earlier example.)

    And it will all have been done with zero American deaths.

    Which is exactly the thing Bush’s supporters were saying after the initial invasion of Iraq 8 years ago. As we learned there, overthrowing the current regime is the easy part; it’s the aftermath that’s a bitch.

  5. Brett says:

    Qaddafi is finished unless the Rebels either completely foul it up or suddenly fall apart to internal conflicts. His forces are completely cut off from new supplies of fuel after the fall of the refinery in Zawiyah to the rebels.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I disagree, that’s not what Bush supporters were saying because we had already taken casualties. They were optimistic, but they hadn’t danced away without injury, and they hadn’t done it without major commitment of troops.

    I think we’re seeing a new mode of great power warfare, a superpower version of asymmetric warfare where the opponent fights hard with all his resources but simply cannot land a punch, not even a small punch. In effect we “outsource” the casualties to local forces while using our vastly superior air and naval forces to hit without being hit back. How often this kind of thing will be useful, I don’t know. But it’s interesting, and like I said, I’ll bet the Iranians are interested, too.

  7. @michael reynolds:

    The initial invasion was still widely seen as relatively bloodless and easy. Had the war ended there, it would likely have been seen as a huge success. But it didn’t end there, and neither will Libya.

    After Kadafi is gone and the rebels start fighting amongst themselves for power or the country devolves into ethnic fighting between the three tribes that make it up, our drones will be useless for maintaining control.

    If Libya becomes another Somalia (a stateless anarchy) or Lebanon (a state that exists primarily as a puppet of a more powerful regional player), it won’t matter if the initial removal was cheap and bloodless, it will still have made things worse off for us.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I don’t think another Somalia is likely — but it could happen. Then again, Gaddafi could have launched a genocidal war all on his own. As I said above I’m not predicting eternal happiness for Libya — they aren’t Sweden.

    We intervened in Libya, did nothing in Syria. No way to know for sure how either decision will come out yet, and now real way to ever know what would have happened had we reversed those two decisions.

  9. Trumwill says:

    It could well be that the lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is not to care what happens after you win. Trying to put back together what we broke wins us no friends, and is unlikely to succeed in any event. Since villainous foreign leaders only care what happens to them, and since taking them out isn’t hard, it could have the beneficial effect of making them more scared of us since they know that it won’t require nearly as much commitment on our part to just take them out. Then, if the next government poses a threat to us, repeat process. Eventually they will get the picture.

    So… on to Syria?

  10. anjin-san says:

    Which is exactly the thing Bush’s supporters were saying after the initial invasion of Iraq 8 years ago

    Not really. The resistance we encountered was much stiffer than expected, nothing like the rush to surrender we saw in Gulf 1. Our vastly superior forces were able to defeat Saddam’s with handily, but there was no cake walk.

  11. @anjin-san:

    Not really. The resistance we encountered was much stiffer than expected, nothing like the rush to surrender we saw in Gulf 1. Our vastly superior forces were able to defeat Saddam’s with handily, but there was no cake walk.

    The initial invasion took less then a month (March 19 – April 12) and resulted in only 34 American deaths. By comparison, Desert Storm took longer (January 17 – February 28) and resulted in 294 American deaths.

    Again, not costless, but by any reasonable standard, the initial invasion was a cakewalk. It was only after the fall of Baghdad that things went to hell.

  12. Trumwill says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That’s certainly how I remember it. I remember the neocons talking about Syria right after Hussein’s fall in part because it was so quick and (comparatively) easy. Of course, then once we had Baghdad, everything changed.