Ghadafi's Supporters Outmatching Opposition in Libya

The rebels' advance on Gadhafi has stalled after attacks from the opposition.

March 9, 2011, 1:00 PM

March 7, 2011— -- Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his supporters pressed their advantage on the battlefield today as they hammered rebel positions in the east.

They attacked the opposition in Ras Lanouf and Bin Jawad from the air and on the ground using tanks, artillery and rocket fire. The rebels fired back, but they were ultimately outmatched by Gadhafi's supporters.

The advance has been stopped for now, and regaining the momentum they lost won't be easy. The opposition forces are faltering because they are lacking several things that Gadhafi's army has.

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The rebels lack strong, central leadership. Several tribes are vying for power, and although fighters are highly motivated, they are also poorly trained.

"I met a guy, he's a hairdresser," said one member of the opposition. "I mean, I don't know, we have another guy, he's a farmer."

They also had problems supplying their efforts.

When the rebels attempted to bring the fight to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, they had trouble keeping up a steady supply of food, ammunition and well-rested fighters.

The opposition has also been no match for Gadhafi's firepower. Despite their early success using smaller weapons, the closer they got to Gadhafi's stronghold, the more they were beaten back by heavy artillery and fighter jets.

In Zawiya one resident said it was as if the town was being wiped off the face of the earth.

"How will we beat him? With faith, this is the only way," said another rebel. "We don't have guns, we don't have much tools or anything, but we have faith."

In Tripoli's Green Square, the symbolic center of the government's power, there was yet another celebration tonight. Gadhafi appears more confident than ever, publicly assuring his supporters that Libya is defeating the rebellion.

Earlier today the dictator went off on another bizarre television rant, exuding confidence that he would be able to ride out the revolution. The big question tonight: is he right?

As Libyans continue to fight, politicians in the U.S. are debating ways to intervene. President Obama has called on Gadhafi to leave office immediately.

"The violence must stop," he said on March 3. "Moammar Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave."

However, the likelihood that he will hand over power is getting smaller. If Gadhafi stays in office, it could lead to an intensifying civil war or a bloodbath as he seeks out the opposition.

The U.S. has few options in dealing with Gadhafi. The idea of a no-fly zone lacks widespread support and would require hundreds of warplanes. It could also take months to come together.

The U.S. will also not commit to sending ground forces to Libya, and officials are reluctant to arm rebels because they can't be certain who they are. In the 1980s, the U.S. government armed forces in Afghanistan, and that's in part who is still being fought back today.

There are, however, options that could help the rebels in Libya.

"We could actually put U.S. aircraft offshore that can serve as airborne servers for internet access or de facto cell phone towers," said retired Marine Corps pilot Steve Ganyard, who is now the president of his own firm, Avascent International. "So they could reestablish communication in those areas that Gadhafi has shut down."

More surveillance aircrafts would also help to alert the rebel forces if Gadhafi's forces are gathering in large numbers, said Ganyard, and could expose atrocities through satellite imagery.

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