These two dispatches from Time (h/t Damir Marusic) and the New York Times suggest that the “kinetic military operation” in Libya may end up being a bit more complicated, long-term and engrossing with respect to Western military assets than the President’s speech suggested on Monday. (I encourage you to peruse Adam Garfinkle’s annotated version of that speech here.)
The two disturbing elements I gleaned from these reports are 1) the manifest lack of any kind of military training or discipline among the East Libyan rebels and 2) the factional/tribal maneuvering evidently going on in places like Bin Jawad. This passage especially, from Abigail Hauslohner’s report in Time, arrested me:
Bin Jawad may be the first town in the rebels’ westward push where many of the townspeople are not on their side. Treason is a word the fighters use liberally in describing the town. And conspicuously, there are no local fighters among them. ‘No one is from Bin Jawad,’ says Khaled Mohamed, a policeman from Ajdabiyah, of the men gathered around him. Like many of the other fighters, he believes the locals receive money from Gaddafi (in fact, residents say that Gaddafi’s military trucked in food aid from Sert in recent weeks). ‘There is treason in Bin Jawad.’
The treason, they say, dates back to their first traumatic experience at Bin Jawad on March 6, which lasted for about 24 hours. At the time, Bin Jawad became the most distant front line in the rebels’ then fast-paced westward advancement. But they say the town never came out to join them — instead fleeing to the hills, or raising white flags as a trick to lure them into gunfire. When the government struck back — aided, rebels say, by the townspeople — the ensuing bombardment resulted in a disastrous retreat over nearly 400 miles (640 km) that took the regime’s forces right to the doorstep of the rebels’ stronghold, Benghazi. . . .
The rebels did not take chances with a town they could no longer trust. After pushing back into Bin Jawad on Tuesday afternoon, the rebels quickly set about searching the streets and homes of the town for hidden troops, mercenaries and traitors. “Alley to alley, house to house,” shouted one man at the fighters as trucks veered down Bin Jawad’s unpaved, bumpy side streets. He used Gaddafi’s own words — an infamous threat from an earlier speech that is often repeated in the rebel-held east. It’s meant to mock the Colonel; it’s even graffitied on the walls. But as the rebels tread into unwelcome territory, they seem to mean it in much the way Gaddafi did . . . .