Agence France-Presse & The Telegraph & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com – 2011-03-27 00:45:46
Rebels Thank France but Want
‘Outside Forces’ to Quit Libya
(March 26, 2011) — Libya’s rebels have thanked France for its role in the Western-led military blitz against the Gaddafi regime but said “outside forces” could now leave the country, in a letter published overnight.
“In the middle of the night, your planes destroyed tanks that were set to crush Benghazi. … The Libyan people see you as liberators. Its recognition will be eternal,” wrote rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril in the letter addressed to President Nicolas Sarkozy, published by the French daily Le Figaro.
However, Mr Jibril said: “We do not want outside forces. We won’t need them. We will win the first battle thanks to you. We will win the next battle through our own means.”
French, US and British air strikes against the regime of longtime Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi began a week ago under UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised “all necessary means” to protect civilians and set up a no-fly zone over the north African country.
Forces loyal to Gaddafi had been closing in on the eastern opposition stronghold of Benghazi when the campaign began.
Rebel forces early yesterday made their first significant victory since then, recapturing the strategic town of Adjabiya, also in the east.
France was the first country to recognise the rebels’ “national council” as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people” on March 10.
The rebels, emboldened by revolutions in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt that ousted strongmen Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, launched their drive to topple Kadhafi, in power for 41 years, on February 15.
“The Libyan people, as well as neighbouring friends, notably our Tunisian and Egyptian brothers, see in the help you have brought a great gesture towards the Arab world,” Mr Jibril wrote.
Libyan Rebel Commander Admits
His Fighters Have al-Qaeda Links
Praveen Swami, Nick Squires and Duncan Gardham / The Telegraph
(March 26, 2011) — In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.
His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.
Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against “the foreign invasion” in Afghanistan, before being “captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan”. He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.
US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.
Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military’s West Point academy has said the two share an “increasingly co-operative relationship”. In 2007, documents captured by allied forces from the town of Sinjar, showed LIFG members made up the second-largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, after Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, al-Qaeda issued a call for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion, which it said would lead to the imposition of “the stage of Islam” in the country.
British Islamists have also backed the rebellion, with the former head of the banned al-Muhajiroun proclaiming that the call for “Islam, the Shariah and jihad from Libya” had “shaken the enemies of Islam and the Muslims more than the tsunami that Allah sent against their friends, the Japanese”.
US May Escalate Urban Strikes in Libya, Pentagon Confirms
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 25, 2011) — Though the UN mandate for Libya was primarily about the “no-fly zone,” and additional warplanes from various nations mean the US role in this is declining somewhat, it does not mean the US role in the war is shrinking. Rather, Pentagon officials say, they are planning escalations in other areas.
In particular, the Pentagon appears keen on moving more specialized aircraft, and helicopter gunships, into Libya to launch attacks on ground troops, and to engage in fights in and around the major cities being contested by the rebels and the Gadhafi regime.
Some officials have been downplaying the war in Libya, and NATO says they believe it will last about 90 days. At the same time, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says there is no time limit at all on the war, and British officials say there is no exit strategy in place.
Fighting across Libya is continuing, and President Obama is simultaneously insisting that the UN mandate isnâ€™t about regime change, but the US goal is Gadhafi’s ouster. It seems therefore that the war is liable to linger, and a number of officials are openly talking of a stalemate with a semi-permanent no-fly one as a possible result.
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