Thursday, 31 March 2011

Al Qaeda in Libya - Overblown Propaganda

It is to be expected that existing Al Qaeda recruits within Libya would join the struggle against the regime. It is also conceivable that Hezbollah would have sent support to Libya during the long period of deliberation that the UN undertook in reaching its decision to follow through on resolution 1973. Yet, to paint this as an Al Qaeda, extremist led uprising is a load of hogwash. And there is a very good way to test the assertion that Al Qaeda will capture the vacuum of power that might result when Gaddafi departs, resulting in a similar turnabout as was experienced in Afghanistan.

And this is the view that the Russian government, the opposite and equal partner in the cold war is now espousing. And a Russian propaganda has had a long history, and real-politik did not only exist in the Allied cold war camp - the Russians, for their sins, are equal and opposite progenitors of this modern day disease. So it's time to shame the Russians, as they are obviously playing out a sick cold war spin in favour of the Gaddafi regime. It seems the cold war antics have not ended.

So lets see - what are the inherent contradictions in this supposition?

It is clear that the Libyan rebels (pro-democracy fighters) are ill-equipped, ill-trained, and not organized enough to take on ground troops that are loyal to Gaddafi. They have fled most battles where they have encountered trained soldiers that know how to conduct a battle. Much emphasis has placed on the inadequacy of the Libyan rebel movement on the ground, and by all satellite television stations, blog spots, tweets, etc. The very reason why an intervention was made is because the rebels were summarily pushed back to Benghazi with the advance of Gaddafi's remaining troops. This, despite the fact that Libyan rebels are also supplemented by defecting army colonels and troops, who should know how to conduct a battle. Yet, by all accounts the Libyan rebels have not fared well and have appeared pretty disorganised in taking on Gaddafi's forces.

One has only to look to Iraq to debunk the idea that there are masses of Al Qaeda trained fighters in Libya, battling alongside civilians, waiting for their chance to take advantage of the power vacuum. In Iraq, the mobilisation of Al Qaeda forces have presented a constant and severe, well organised threat to American forces. Al Qaeda knows how to train fighters and have a long history of battlefield experience in various conflicts. Al Qaeda would not have survived as long as it has if it's actions were undisciplined and unable to mount well planned operations. If Al Qaeda was in Libya in great numbers, we would not see the disorganised, piecemeal resistance from the rebels that we have seen in Libya. Even now, the battle is to and fro. The rebels seem to be relying more on the defection of the army rather than all out battles to win territory. If Al Qaeda was in Libya in weighty numbers, then we would be seeing organised resistance on the ground, and well-trained fighters pushing forward against Gaddafi loyalists. We have not seen this. Instead, we have seen rebels push forward only to retreat quickly whenever they were faced with organised resistance from Gaddafi forces.

Al Qaeda maintained a long term resistance in Iraq that saw almost daily attacks upon American forces. It is an organised network of resistance that knows how to move arms and skilled fighters into conflict areas. Iraq acted as a magnet for Al Qaeda, and what we have seen in Libya does not in the slightest resemble what transpired in Iraq. The attempts that the Russian government in particular has made to paint a picture of a Libyan Afghanistan have been contrived, and if they're not contrived they're not very well thought through. One thing is for certain, the Russian government knows how to think strategically, and it is unlikely that this position has been generated by the strategists. Rather, it is more likely generated by the fearmongers amongst them, who have managed to capitalise on Russian fears over the threat that has emerged from the Caucasus. Moreover, it is politically expedient for the Russians to adopt the stance they have - it absolves them of the responsibility to participate in any action, and at the same time they make themselves more attractive to those that the West have spurned - much like China has managed to do. When the West spurned Robert Mugabe he looked to China for support. And Russia's calculated response is no doubt inspired by the very control of the very same oil reserves they claim that the coalition forces are greedy for. Russia are backing their old friend Gaddafi, and that is what their propaganda is in aid of.

To summarise - it is ridiculous to simultaneously claim that the rebels are disorganised rag tag groups, while at the same time heavily impregnated by Al Qaeda forces. Al Qaeda forces would know how to train and mobilise forces and would themselves be well trained and organised. We have seen none of this, and the Libyan army defectors are the ones conducting the training. While there may be Al Qaeda fighters amongst the Libyan rebels it is hardly likely, judging from their performance on the battelfield that Al Qaeda is a major force in the uprising in Libya. In this sense, recreated fears of a 1979 or Afghanistan styled power vaccuum being usurped by Islamist radicals are misplaced interpretations of the Libyan uprising, and runs the danger of acting as a diagnosis that eventually perpetuates itself. In this respect, what the Russian government is spinning out is dangerous and misleading, and if it is a genuine assessment, is more likely clouded by their own problems with extremists and only emphasizes how well both sides of the cold war divide mirror each other and their mutual paranoias.

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