NBC brings us a nice moment for anti-Gaddafi forces from Ajdabiya, a town seized by the government and taken back by rebels just this morning. As Richard Engel’s report from the ground shows, there’s not much left to take back; the urban fighting drove most of the residents out, and many buildings are too damaged to inhabit. Still, any defeat of the government army gives the rebels hope of prevailing:
The Guardian’s report on the recapture of Ajdabiya suggests that the US and its coalition were coordinating efforts in the area with the rebels:
Anti-government fighters, backed by allied air strikes, push Muammar Gaddafi’s forces out of strategic eastern town
Libyan rebels backed by allied air strikes have recaptured the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya, pushing out Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. ….
Air strikes on Ajdabiya on Friday afternoon seem to have been decisive. The African Union (AU) said it was planning to facilitate talks to help end the war, but Nato said its operation could last three months, and France said the conflict would not end soon.
In Washington, a US military spokeswoman said the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the past 24 hours, attacking Gaddafi’s artillery, mechanised forces and command and control infrastructure.
The White House has insisted that it has not formed an alliance with the rebels, and that coalition strikes are designed to keep Gaddafi from attacking civilians. In the case of Ajdabiya, however, the forces attacking the city were the rebels, and there were few civilians left to protect. Nevertheless, the coalition apparently destroyed the government forces holding the city and forced Gaddafi to cede control of Ajdabiya.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that depends on the nature of the rebellion. Gaddafi is a murderous dictator, but are the rebels freedom-loving democrats looking to install a liberal republic based on human rights, or are they Islamists, Ba’athists, or warlords who will fracture Libya for its oil resources? So far, no one in the West seems to know on whose behalf we are fighting, and in this region, that’s a very, very dangerous position.