Perhaps the confusion surrounding the purpose of the intervention in Libya is catching up to President Obama. After offering numerous justifications for the war that never really represented what was actually happening in the region. Initially entering Libya to prevent a massacre, the mission quickly evolved to one pushing for regime change. Despite the presence of CIA operatives training rebels and gathering intelligence, the rebel forces – after a successful march to Sirte immediately after the intervention started – have been unable to keep pushing at Qaddafi. With rebel forces numbering only around 1,000, you really need to wonder how long a bloody stalemate can continue, even with air support from NATO.
Meanwhile, with all the concerns surrounding a post-Qaddafi Libya and the US determined to avoid another nation building commitment, perhaps the United States is getting cold feet – the war is, after all, proving that successful removal of Qaddafi depends entirely on western presence. Moreover, if the current stalemate continues, one must wonder how long the rebels would be able to hold out, considering their numbers, without more direct western action. Yet the United States has withdrawn its aerial firepower from the Libya mission and Libyan envoys are pushing for a negotiated settlement with western powers. The fact that Qaddafi is sending envoys to foreign countries – and not to the rebels – to negotiate is a clear sign of how this war will end.
Frustrated by the lack of progress (complemented by a reduction of western air strikes), General Abdel-Fattah Younis – the rebel military chief – vented his frustration at the relative inaction of NATO that has allowed Qaddafi to regain territory, saying that NATO had ‘disappointed’ the rebels. Libyans also are beginning to suspect that the west is more interested in finding peace than toppling Qaddafi and is attempting to make deals with the regime without the knowledge of the rebel movement.
For the United States, it may be best for Obama to find a way out of Libya while creating some type of working government in Tripoli to avoid the potential chaos of a complete revolution. Unfortunately for the rebels, this may include making the type of deals with the Qaddafi regime that the rebels are refusing to make. Tofik Al Tarrat, a businessman in Benghazi, revealed this sentiment, saying “If NATO wants peace, we don’t need them.”
By blurring the purpose of the original intervention, it seems that Obama has inextricably linked himself to the fall of Qaddafi – meaning that escalation of the war could be Obama’s only choice.
Photo from Al Jazeera