Friday, April 1, 2011

More disciplined Libyan opposition force emerging

(AP) - AJDABIYA, Libya – Something new has appeared at the Libyan front: a semblance of order among rebel forces. Rebels without training — sometimes even without weapons — have rushed in and out of fighting in a free-for-all for weeks, repeatedly getting trounced by Moammar Gadhafi's more heavily armed forces.


But on Friday only former military officers and the lightly trained volunteers serving under them are allowed on the front lines. Some are recent arrivals, hoping to rally against forces loyal to the Libyan leader who have pushed rebels back about 100 miles this week.

The better organized fighters, unlike some of their predecessors, can tell the difference between incoming and outgoing fire. They know how to avoid sticking to the roads, a weakness in the untrained forces that Gadhafi's troops have exploited. And they know how to take orders.

"The problem with the young untrained guys is they'll weaken us at the front, so we're trying to use them as a backup force," said Mohammed Majah, 33, a former sergeant.

"They don't even know how to use weapons. They have great enthusiasm, but that's not enough now," he said.

Majah said the only people at the front now are former soldiers, "experienced guys who have been in reserves, and about 20 percent are young revolutionaries who have been in training and are in organized units."

The greater organization was a sign that military forces that split from the regime to join the rebellion were finally taking a greater role in the fight after weeks trying to organize. Fighters cheered Friday as one of their top commanders — former Interior Minister Abdel-Fattah Younis — drove by in a convoy toward the front.

It was too early to say if the improvements will tip the fight in the rebels' favor. They have been struggling to exploit the opportunity opened by international airstrikes hammering Gadhafi's forces since March 19.