Monday, May 30, 2011

Mass Military Defections Reported in Libya

Eight senior Libyan officers announced today they defected from Moammar Gadhafi's military, offering to join the rebel cause.

The five generals, two colonels and a major appeared at a news conference in Rome amid reports that about 120 other soldiers and officers have abandoned Gadhafi in the last few days.

"The people around him and the aides and people who are fighting for him are diminishing; some are deserting," rebel spokesman Guma al-Gamati told the BBC.

Libyan rebels pushed west of Misurata today, reportedly getting the help of at least a half-dozen unidentified Western operatives caught on camera by Al Jazeera in Libya.

It was not known where the operatives are from, though there have been reports of French and British target-spotters and liaison officers on the ground "advising" the Libyan rebels. The Guardian of London picked up on the Al Jazeera report (link includes the video report).

The defections came as South African President Jacob Zuma met today with Gadhafi in Tripoli to discuses an end to the conflict, even though the rebels have rejected every offer so far for failing to guarantee Gadhafi will go. The rebels held out little hope Zuma's mission would meet those terms.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted this weekend that the end may be near for Gadhafi, though he contends more American firepower would have pushed him out sooner. McCain has called on the Obama administration to maintain an unrelenting assault, as was the case when the mission was in the hands of the U.S. Africa Command in the early days of the campaign.

"Gadhafi may crack. He may crack," McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the "Fox News Sunday" program. "But this thing could have been over a long time ago if we had brought the full weight of American air power to bear on him, and it is unfortunate."

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