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Dispatch: Libyan Rebel Success and the Problems Ahead

August 22, 2011 | 1551 Print Text Size

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Analyst Bayless Parsley examines the success of the Libyan rebel forces in Tripoli but foresees problems for the rebel National Transitional Council once they begin governing Libya.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

One day after Libyan rebel forces entered the capital of Tripoli, fighting continues with remnants of the Gadhafi regime that are entrenched in Tripoli. Though several of Gadhafi sons have reportedly been arrested, the whereabouts of the Libyan leader himself remain unknown. Gadhafi also maintains strongholds in the cities of Sirte and Sabha, indications that the Libyan war is far from over. Assuming that the Libyan rebels prevail, however, the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council will face a whole new set of problems in trying to relocate its political authority to Tripoli.

The main problem of the National Transitional Council is that it's an umbrella group that brings together several different groups of people, who really only have two things in common. They're collectively referred to as the Libyan rebels, and they all share a desire to oust Moammar Gadhafi from power. The second you take that common mission away from them, you immediately open the door to in-fighting.

The Council has been based in Benghazi since February and has, for the entire time, professed a desire to relocate its political capital to Tripoli. This won't be as easy as simply packing up their car and making a 12-hour drive west. When its leaders, almost all of whom have heavy ties to eastern Libya, which is historically distinct from other parts of the country, try to assert their power in the west, it will be met with resistance.

There are a lot of different fronts in the Libyan war manned by different groups from different parts the country. Each of these groups is now going to feel as if it is entitled to a certain share of political authority, economic reward and share of power in the new Libya. Those who manned the front lines of Brega are the closest geographically to both Benghazi and the bulk of Libya's oil fields. They will feel as if they were the vanguard of Libyan revolution. Those who staved off the Libyan army in Misurata for so many months feel as if they are the most hardened fighters and therefore worthy of a reward.

The Berbers in the Nafusa Mountains played a critical role in the final push to enter Tripoli, while the Arab rebels who joined them in Zawiya and Zabrata will argue that they actually entered the capital first and therefore drove the dagger into Gadhafi's heart. Finally there are the people of Tripoli itself, a city which makes up about a quarter of Libya's overall population, who may not be very receptive to the idea of the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council taking the place of the previous regime for very long.

There are also known Islamist militias who've been participating in the fighting in the east and who have also been providing security in Benghazi itself. The presence of these militias has caused the National Transitional Council to worry that they may attempt to fill any potential power vacuum that is left by Gadhafi's departure. When you add all these factors together, it's clear that the Council has a potential problem on its hand, and that, while the Libyan war seems to be nearing an end, it's possible that the real battle has only just begun.

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