Hardly by accident, all the top military rebel commanders are LIFG, from Belhaj in Tripoli to one Ismael as-Salabi in Benghazi and one Abdelhakim al-Assadi in Derna, not to mention a key asset, Ali Salabi, sitting at the core of the TNC. It was Salabi who negotiated with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi the “end” of LIFG’s jihad, thus assuring the bright future of these born-again “freedom fighters”.
It doesn’t require a crystal ball to picture the consequences of LIFG/AQIM – having conquered military power and being among the war “winners” – not remotely interested in relinquishing control just to please NATO’s whims.
Meanwhile, amid the fog of war, it’s unclear whether Gaddafi is planning to trap the Tripoli brigade in urban warfare; or to force the bulk of rebel militias to enter the huge Warfallah tribal areas.
Gaddafi’s wife belongs to the Warfallah, Libya’s largest tribe, with up to 1 million people and 54 sub-tribes. The inside word in Brussels is that NATO expects Gaddafi to fight for months if not years; thus the Texas George W Bush-style bounty on his head and the desperate return to NATO’s plan A, which was always to take him out.
Libya may now be facing the specter of a twin-headed guerrilla Hydra; Gaddafi forces against a weak TNC central government and NATO boots on the ground; and the LIFG/AQIM nebula in a jihad against NATO (if they are sidelined from power).
Gaddafi may be a dictatorial relic of the past, but you don’t monopolize power for four decades for nothing, and without your intelligence services learning a thing or two.
From the beginning, Gaddafi said this was a foreign-backed/al-Qaeda operation; he was right (although he forgot to say this was above all neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s war, but that’s another story).
He also said this was a prelude for a foreign occupation whose target was to privatize and take over Libya’s natural resources. He may – again – turn out to be right.
The Singapore “experts” who praised the Gaddafi regime’s decision to free the LIFG’s jihadis qualified it as “a necessary strategy to mitigate the threat posed to Libya”.
Now, LIFG/AQIM is finally poised to exercise its options as an “indigenous political force”.
Ten years after 9/11, it’s hard not to imagine a certain decomposed skull in the bottom of the Arabian Sea boldly grinning to kingdom come.