We haven’t written much on Libya since we lurk in the darker areas of U.S. foreign policy, but we’ve followed its military developments closely and support NATO’s assistance to the revolutionaries. By mismanaging expectations, Western governments committed a fundamental error of insurgency and counterinsurgency alike. At this point we doubt that Muammar Gaddafi will surrender (since he’s lost almost all negotiating leverage) and could be preparing to launch a viscous counterattack. If he lays low, he must choose between fleeing the country, hiding and mounting an insurgency with his remaining forces.
Monday morning in Tripoli is still witnessing history though:
On Saturday, rebels were still fighting to take the east of Zawiyah, 30 miles to the west. Then, as dusk fell and Libyans were celebrating the end of the daily Ramadan fast, a group of young men took over the Ben Nabi and other mosques in the centre of Tripoli, announcing a new uprising from within through loud-speakers normally used for the call to prayer. By midnight, there was fighting on the streets of the capital and defenses on the outskirts were crumbling.Future updates as Libya’s situation dictates, particularly the regional reaction. The Arab revolutionary wave is driven by fallen dictators and Libya could boost efforts in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, whose revolutionaries took Tunisians and Egyptians as their inspiration. Yemen’s capital of Sana’a has already been cordoned off in response to Tripoli’s events.
Sunday, August 21
Midnight: In a co-ordinated assault, NATO bombs fell around the Gaddafi leadership compound of Bab al-Aziziya as fighting continued on the streets. Regime spokesmen said that a few rebels had crept into the city but been crushed. But the sound of shooting continues.
1.45: Col Gaddafi broadcasts live by telephone, congratulating his supporters for repelling the "rats" who had attacked Tripoli. "We have to put an end to this masquerade. You must march by the millions to free the destroyed towns," he says.
Abdel Salam Jalloud, Col Gaddafi's former prime minister and number two who fell out of favour in the Nineties, appears on television from Rome to call on Tripoli to rise up. He had defected on Friday.
4am: Rebels report fighting is under way in traditionally anti-Gaddafi eastern suburbs of Souk al-Jumaa and Tajoura
4.30am: State television shows Saif al-Islam addressing supporters. "You will never see us as Libyans surrender and raise the white flag: that is impossible," he says, though it is not clear when the footage was shot.
Dawn: a boat containing hundreds of fighters from Misurata lands on beaches to the east of the city to reinforce the uprising in Tajoura and the eastern suburbs.
9am: Rebel forces move east from Zawiyah, reaching 20 miles from Tripoli's centre.
10.30am: Sniper fire reported from roofs of Bab al-Aziziya
Noon: Rebels take town of Gaddayem on Tripoli's western outskirts. Gaddafi forces still shelling front lines.
1pm: Rebel leadership in Benghazi announces "Operation Mermaid Dawn" is under way to encircle Col Gaddafi through military advance from the west and uprising in the east of the city. Regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim says "thousands and thousands" of troops and volunteers are ready to defend Tripoli.
3pm: After seizing village of Maya, rebels to the west reach 15 miles from the city centre, near the headquarters of Libya's strongest fighting force, the 32nd or Khamis Brigade.
5pm: Rebels seize Khamis Brigade base as government troops flee. Fighting continues on the streets of the city itself.
6pm: Fighting reported inside the Mitiga Airbase, the main military airport.
6.45pm: Col Gaddafi makes a new appeal for residents to come out and defend the city. He says he is still in Tripoli, keeping his promise to stay, and that he will not surrender. But the rebel army is now seven miles away.
8pm: Rebels said to be in control of eastern suburbs of Tripoli, and negotiating the surrender of the Mitiga Airbase. In the centre, pro-regime forces open fire near Bab al-Aziziya and the Rixos Hotel.
11pm: Rebels reach two miles from the city centre, seize Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Leaders' son and heir apparent, who earlier vowed never to surrender.
11.30pm: Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council, says he is ready to call a ceasefire if Col Gaddafi leaves. Moussa Ibrahim, the regime spokesman, also calls for a ceasefire but continues to insist negotiations must be led by Col. Gaddafi. "We expect the death toll to rise beyond anyone's imagination," he says. "It's really a true traumatic, a true tragic event taking place before you here in Tripoli, supported by the might of Nato."
Monday, August 22
Midnight: Col Gaddafi makes another appeal on television for residents to defend Tripoli as a "matter of life and death" as rebels start tearing down his portrait from the city's walls.
12.30: Libya's former deputy ambassador to the United Nations, who defected to the rebels, claims that 90 per cent of Tripoli is in the hands of the rebels. The Presidential Guard surrenders. NATO calls for a peaceful transition of power, and says the Transitional National Council has a "great responsibility" to ensure "reconciliation and respect for human rights."
1.15 am: Rebels reach Green Square. In the final advance, they say they met little resistance.