Shashank Joshi: Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics

To ensure longevity, Muammar Gaddafi has had to switch his focus to securing the war's lifelines. And supplies are no less important to the rebel forces

Share
Related Topics

Libya's is a quadripartite revolution: stalemate around Benghazi, urban war in Misrata, a Berber rebellion in the far west and guerrilla raids deep into the interior. The first two of these – the rebel stronghold and besieged port city – may get the most attention, but it is the latter two struggles that may prove the most consequential.

Nato has adapted to the first two theatres by sending body armour, anti-tank weapons and military advisers to the Transitional National Council while deploying armed drones over Misrata. Yet no one thinks this war will end with a victorious march into Tripoli.

Instead, the coalition, through aggressive attacks on Tripoli and a naval blockade, has adopted a campaign of coercion. There are three problems with this. First, punishing adversaries rarely works. Nato has inflated the costs of capitulation and made a settlement less likely. Second, the regime has levelled the playing field by switching to hit-and-run tactics in the south, plain-clothes soldiers in the east and rocket attacks in Misrata. Third, coercion may flounder as the regime waits out the coalition. But to ensure this longevity, Muammar Gaddafi has had to switch his focus to securing the war's lifelines.

This is why the battles in the west and the interior of Libya are crucial. It is why Colonel Gaddafi's forces have redeployed forces from Misrata to the west.

Oil pipelines run from southwestern Libya, through the Nafusa mountain range, up to the regime's single functioning refinery at Zawiya. These, along with key water and gas pipelines, traverse fiercely contested territory. Denying them to the regime would result in biting shortages spreading from the civilian population to the armed forces.

Supplies are no less important to the self-described Free Libya forces, which is why the government has struck at the rebels' own lifelines in the south-east of the country. The Sarir field is the country's largest, but it lies outside Nato's core patrolling zone and its pipelines have been subject to sporadic regime raids. The area hosts key portions of the water grid; Libya is mostly desert and desalination capacity is limited.

Even the $3bn (£1.8bn) of foreign-held assets being released to the Transitional National Council are collateralised against future oil income. Though the rebels managed to export a million barrels of oil to China in early April, long-term flows will be low as attacks keep away foreign workers.

There is a military adage that amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics. It is the sinew of Colonel Gaddafi's wars and the lifeblood of the opposition's resistance which are at stake in these neglected but finely balanced battles of Libya.

The writer is an associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits