Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libya: Rebels retreat before Qaddafi counter-attack

RAS LANUF, Libya — Having halted a westward push by rebel fighters, forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi began a counteroffensive on Tuesday, marching eastward to the outskirts of this critical oil town, as an array of diplomats gathered in London to shape a political vision of a post-Qaddafi era.

“We meet now in London at a turning point,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the conference, urging continued military action by the NATO-led coalition in Libya along with “political and diplomatic pressure that makes clear to Qaddafi that he must go.”

On the ground, though, there was no indication that Colonel Qaddafi was prepared even for the cease-fire demanded by the United Nations resolution 12 days ago authorizing the military operation in Libya. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain opened the conference by saying the Libyan leader was still in “flagrant breach” of the resolution.

Under withering allied airstrikes loyalist forces had fallen back in the last week from the gates of Benghazi hundreds of miles to the east to the strategically crucial town of Surt, Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown, which had been depicted as recently as Sunday as the next rebel objective. Surt is critical for both sides since it blocks the rebels’ advance to western Libya and the capital of Tripoli.

But on Monday they struck back, sending volleys of missile and tank fire that pushed the battle lines farther east. A chaotic cavalcade of hundreds of trucks and cars carrying fighters streamed late Monday afternoon into Bin Jawwad, a battered ghost town about 80 miles east of Surt. Bin Jawwad has switched hands three times in the last month, and it did not seem that loyalist forces planned to recapture it as much as simply push the rebels farther eastward.
Read the rest here.

Another quick and glorious war...

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