US Intelligence contradicts US government's optimistic picture of Libyan rebels*
By Marie Edwards
Despite the official claims of the US government in regards to their trust in the Libyan rebels, US intelligence channels paint another picture of the situation in Libya.
Brief from a US intelligence channel on August 4, 2011
Libyan loyalist forces, which are usually described as “demoralized” in Western media accounts based on rebel sources, consistently mount spirited counter-attacks to retake lost ground even though they lack any effective defense against punishing NATO airstrikes, actions not usually seen in dispirited or demoralized forces. Though the rebel line maintains that most of Qadhafi’s men are only waiting for an opportunity to defect, nearly five months have passed without any significant increase in defections from the rank-and-file, many of whom have had ample opportunity to cross the lines by now. Those eastern-based troops who defected early in the struggle continue to contribute little to the rebel effort, which is still dominated by poorly-trained amateurs who view orders as suggestions and follow only those commanders they like. Rivalries and distrust have made creating a single military leadership difficult enough – extending a centralized command and control system throughout the rebel ranks will be extremely difficult.
The violent dissension within the rebel movement has emboldened the Qadhafi regime, which has withdrawn an offer of a ceasefire if NATO stops its bombing campaign. The government is also now offering an amnesty for rebels returning to the fold, sweetened by offers of promotions and various other rewards (Reuters, August 3). The regime has also taken the opportunity of sowing further discord in the rebel ranks by announcing it is in contact with leading figures in the TNC, including former Qadhafi loyalists Mahmud Jibril and Ali Essawi, as well as Islamist leader Ali al-Salabi (AFP, July 30). In an August 3 interview with the New York Times, Sa’if al-Islam Qadhafi (son of the Libyan leader) said the government had formed an alliance with Ali al-Salabi against the rebels. Al-Salabi acknowledged having discussions with regime representatives, but denied forming a pact with them (AFP, August 4).
Psychologically at least, Qadhafi has the upper hand on the rebels, whose military leadership, cobbled together from ex-Qadhafi loyalists, CIA assets and radical Islamists, is in danger of being consumed by distrust, paranoia and internal disputes. If further rebel purges follow, the rebel movement stands at risk of complete collapse.