April 19, 2011 -- A month into the allied air campaign in Libya the battle lines are hardening, rebel leaders want more, and Moammar Gadhafi remains defiant, but there are signs his military forces are being stretched to the limits.
Brigadier General Mark van Uhm, Chief of NATO Allied Operations, says since the campaign began NATO has flown 2,800 sorties, 1,200 of them strike missions. A NATO spokesman says Gadhafi's forces have been substantially degraded since the opening days of the campaign.
Still, rebels here in their capital of Benghazi complain that not enough is being done. They've requested even more airstrikes, and complain that NATO forces can't act fast enough to support their operations in the field.
The western city of Misurata is proving the most difficult challenge to NATO. Rebels now hold the port area of the city and are surrounded by Gadhafi's forces. The rebels in Misurata – most of them residents with little or no military training – have kept Gadhafi's better-trained and equipped forces at bay for nearly two months.
Rebels there say that more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting, but the BBC reports that hospital records indicate some 300 deaths.
Despite Gadhafi's tough talk there are real signs his military, comprised of some 15,000 highly trained troops and perhaps another 50,000 mercenaries, are beginning to feel the strain of the ongoing campaign.
Gadhafi has yet to pacify any area where protests have broken out and instead the armed rebellion only appears to be gathering strength. Even in the western city of Zawiya, where Gadhafi mounted a brutal campaign to control the city, most rebels retreated to wait for the opportunity to return to the fight.
Rather than smother the rebellion, Gadhafi's forces have had to react to an ever-growing uprising encouraged and backed by NATO airstrikes. In addition to Misurata and Ajdabiya in the east, Gadhafi's forces are now trying to put down a rebellion in the far western town of Zintan and throughout the Nafusah Mountains that stretch to the Tunisian border.
Libya War, a Month Later
In a sign of how the conflict has grown on Libya's western border, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says some 10,000 Libyans have sought refuge in the southern Tunisian town of Dehiba over the past ten days.
In a press statement, UNHCR said, "Many of the new arrivals said they fled their homes fearing the fighting and shelling which has intensified significantly over the weekend." UNHCR also reports the main brunt of fighting appears to have moved to Nalut, about 75 miles west of Zintan.
A NATO spokesman said Gadhafi's forces were splintered and with NATO now targeting his fuel depots and supply lines he can no longer take and hold ground.
"Gadhafi is fighting a war on several fronts," said the spokesman. What's still not clear a month into the fight is whether the rebels have the ability to exploit Gadhafi's weakness by mounting a new offensive, taking ground, holding it all while continuing to their march toward Tripoli.