Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Col. Qaddafi learned from Iraq

Sending advisers to Libya is the latest in a series of signs of trouble for the NATO campaign, which began in earnest with a stinging, American-led attack but has seemed to fizzle since operational command was transferred to NATO on March 31. After that, a rebel offensive was smashed by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, which sent the rebels reeling toward the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

New tactics used by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces — mixing with civilian populations, camouflaging weapons and driving pickup trucks instead of military vehicles — have made it hard for NATO pilots to find targets. At the same time, loyalist artillery and tanks have hammered the rebel-held city of Misurata with cluster bombs, which have been banned by much of the world, making a mockery of NATO’s central mission of protecting civilians.

I don't know if Col. Qaddafi learned these tactics by watching the war in Iraq. But I do know they're pretty classic insurgent tactics. If you've got a weaker force than your opponent--and at this point, Qaddafi's opponent is NATO--then you don't confront your opponent strength to strength. You hide out in the population and rely on subterfuge instead of overt force. Unsporting? Sure. But Qaddafi wants to hold onto power; there's no reason for him to play by the rules of the West. Becoming an insurgent is the best way for him to hold onto power.

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