Libyan Rebels Advance Against Gadhafi Regime

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2011 — Moam­mar Gadhafi’s regime is on its last legs, and what hap­pens after the Libyan dic­ta­tor is gone is up to the peo­ple of that coun­try, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said here today.

Libyan rebels have made progress against Tripoli, tak­ing towns with­in 30 miles of the Libyan cap­i­tal. Six months ago, the Unit­ed States began air oper­a­tions to stop regime forces from mov­ing on the rebel strong­hold Beng­hazi. At the end of March, NATO took over respon­si­bil­i­ty and the Unit­ed States assumed a sup­port­ing role.

Rebel forces, with­out train­ing or equip­ment at the begin­ning of the con­flict, have pushed across the coun­try to sur­round the forces loy­al to Gad­hafi.

NATO offi­cials said regime troops launched a Scud mis­sile Aug. 14, but it fell harm­less­ly in the desert. It was the first time the regime had launched this type of weapon, and may be a sign of the grow­ing des­per­a­tion in Gadhafi’s camp, NATO offi­cials said.

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty also has put enor­mous pres­sure on the Libyan leader to step down with­out fur­ther blood­shed, Lit­tle said.

Anti-Gad­hafi forces are pres­sur­ing regime forces, espe­cial­ly in the west­ern part of the nation, Lit­tle said. “They are head­ed toward, and may be in now, a town called Zawiya, and that is rel­a­tive­ly close to Tripoli,” he said. “You also have anti-Gad­hafi forces mak­ing progress in the east. Those are sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ments.”

There have also been high-pro­file defec­tions from Libya. News reports indi­cate that Gadhafi’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter escaped from Tripoli with his fam­i­ly and is now in Cairo. Eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic sanc­tions on the Libyan leader also are being felt.

“If you put all of those things togeth­er, the future does not look par­tic­u­lar­ly bright for Gad­hafi, but we’ll have to see where things go,” Lit­tle said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said yes­ter­day that Gadhafi’s days are num­bered. “But nei­ther he nor I can put a pre­cise num­ber on how many days,” Lit­tle said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)