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Tripoli: Not quite a walk in the park… but certainly not Stalingrad

Shortly before I left the office on Friday afternoon I posted a quick op-ed on, offering an overview of the resistance that an assault on Tripoli might encounter, based on NTC experiences elsewhere in Libya. I left the building knowing that, although the NTC had made massive gains by the end of the week, their momentum would probably stall when they finally reached Tripoli. Tripoli was still going to be there when I got back to the office on Monday, and the TNC were going to be held at bay by Gaddafi forces… for a week at least. Or so I thought.

I spent much of the weekend flicking between various live news feeds watching with astonishment as the NTC waltzed into Tripoli and several of my predictions were proven wrong. Considering that I may, at times, think the worst of a situation, that I was proved wrong isn’t a bad thing! With the NTC in control of the majority of Tripoli and Gaddafi enclaves shrinking, it seems the right time to examine my predictions.

Anti-personnel mines
The lasting after-effects of laying hundreds or thousands of anti-personnel mines inside Tripoli would have been horrific for years to come. Fortunately Gaddafi forces did not lay minefields (to date). Whether they would have mined the approached to Tripoli if they had had more time before the NTC advance is merely an academic discussion. It would have certainly slowed the NTC assault; however it would have had the same effect on a Gaddafi counter-offensive, as well as leaving a terrible legacy for the population of Tripoli.

Snipers have, as predicted, caused delays for the NTC forces. Sniping has forced the NTC forces in places to pull back and deploy heavy weapons to bombard the snipers positions. I, however, had expected NTC forces to be shot at from every rooftop and window from the outskirts of Tripoli to Green Square. Sniping of this scale would have seriously slowed down any NTC advance, but the people of Tripoli did not take to their rooftops with their rifles.

It was reported that Gaddafi had been arming and training the people of Tripoli to be the vanguard of his revolution. These were the people shown on Libyan television in Green Square holding rally’s supporting Gaddafi only days ago. What happened to Gaddafi’s people all rising up to repulse and destroy the invaders? Maybe the swiftness of the NTC advance caught them off balance? Or perhaps they were surprised that the foreign invaders turned out to be fellow Libyans? Maybe they were only pretending to be loyal out of fear, or as a way to gain weapons to help the TNC when the moment came? Whatever the cause of the lack of Gaddafi militias, their general absence has caught observers by surprise.

Although the whole of Tripoli has not risen up to repulse the ‘rats’ as Gaddafi called them, there have been reports of occasional skirmishes throughout Tripoli as the die-hard Gaddafi supporters refuse to go quietly into the night.

Scud missiles
I predicted that the Gaddafi regime might fire several Scud missiles as a final act of retaliation for attacking Tripoli. It is possible that several months of NATO bombing and NTC advances made Scud launches impractical, or the soldiers responsible for firing the missiles may have defected or fled. Regardless of the reason, so far, no more Scuds have been fired.

Chemical Weapons
Fortunately I was right and Gaddafi’s forces haven’t unleashed chemical weapons on their own capital. This was always unlikely, as a rational human being would never dream of using the weapons… but this is the man christened ‘Mad Dog’ by President Regan.

Heavy Weapons
Gaddafi forces did indeed roll out some heavy weaponry from their strongholds to fight against the NTC, but the NTC now have increasing amounts of heavy weapons of their own to counter this Gaddafi threat. Over the weekend the NTC forces overran a major military base gaining precious hardware.

Although I predicted an increase in blue-on-blue causalities, fortunately there has not been the jump in numbers that I had expected. It is possibly that there hasn’t been any fratricide, but more likely that it will come to light once the dust has settled over Tripoli.

Several of my predictions about what the NTC could expect in Tripoli were wrong. A slight conciliation is that I was not the only one. A month ago, even a week ago, no one would have guessed that events in Tripoli would have turned out the way that they have. Except for the NTC that is; for months they were saying that when they got to Tripoli it would rise up and overthrow Gaddafi. At the time of writing, that optimism is not misplaced.

Neil Waghorn writes for


One response to “Tripoli: Not quite a walk in the park… but certainly not Stalingrad

  1. jack d segal August 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm


    It’s rare to see someone with the integrity to acknowledge a (slightly) off-the-mark prediction. My compliments! Hopefully today’s reversals don’t yet prove you right. Jack Segal

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