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How will Libya end? (Part II)

Nick Robinson | 15:46 UK time, Monday, 21 March 2011

Intense scenario planning is going on inside the Ministry of Defence to prepare every possible answer to that question.

Ajdabiya reservoir

Water from the Ajdabiya reservoir may prove to be decisive

One - and let me stress just one - scenario being planned for is a battle for control of the Libyan city of Ajdabiya, which is about 100 miles (160 km) south of Benghazi. A withdrawal from Ajdabiya was one of the demands set out by President Obama. With control of that city, a Libyan free state could be created alongside a state controlled by Gaddafi. Without it, he would retain a stranglehold on the key rebel city.

The reason, I'm told, is water and power. The city of Benghazi relies on Ajdabiya for both. There is a fear that Benghazi may have as little as a week's supply of water. Water is supplied by what Colonel Gaddafi hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" - what is known as the "Great Man-Made River" - which claims to be the world's largest irrigation project. How possible it would be for him to block the flow I do not know but others are looking into just that.

The Prime Minister has just spelt out that one condition of a ceasefire is to establish water, electricity and gas supplies in the cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Misrata.

The military problem is that Gaddafi's forces are already inside the city of Ajdabiya. The only way to get them out without massive civilian casualties would be to bomb and destroy their supply lines. In other words - more bombing raids and not just the creation of a no-fly zone once Libyan air defences are destroyed.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nobody will know how it will end and expecting a formula for completion is futile. As I have said before there is justification in supplying military facilities to the rebels on the understanding that they are for defensive purposes including ejecting Gaddafi's crew from city centres where they are attacking civilians. The allies should continue bombing his army into the sand until there is an effective cease fire and withdrawal of his forces from the remaining towns and cities that were in rebel hands. It will be a mess but hey what's new!

  • Comment number 2.

    "a Libyan free state could be created alongside a state controlled by Gaddafi"

    That would be a terrible outcome. How can such a state live alongside a neighbour such as Gaddafi? He will gain a false sense of strength if this occurs and there will never be a moment's peace. All of the expense and risk of the current operation will have been for nothing.

  • Comment number 3.

    If the wright brothers had worried about how it was all going to end, you would still be riding a bike round the world Mr Robinson. If the useless organisation that is the EU can't take care of a stone age warlord playing god in a country 8 times the size of Britain with a population less than Scotland's, then we are indeed in trouble.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hopefully even if this insight is correct it has no implications with regard for timescales - water would be required even for a city to survive for a few weeks.

    On the other hand it does also sound like an acknowledgement of one of the likely outcomes of this dodgy scheme - a partitioned Libya with Gadaffi still in power long term.

  • Comment number 5.

    I recall working with a Korean contracting company in the 80's. They were working on the Great Man Made River project, which went by GMMR.

    They'd spent some time changing the logo to read GMMMR - Great Mad Man Made River Project...

  • Comment number 6.

    Lots of Libyan tweeps are saying that Ajdabiya has been retaken by rebel forces today (although I've yet to see this confirmed by a news agency).

    Meanwhile Misrata and Zintan are being pummelled by pro-Gaddafi tanks, artillery and snipers.

  • Comment number 7.

    The delay in implementing a no-fly zone has clearly caused long term damage to the future of the Rebel cause.

    That said, the inclusion of arab nations in the coalition is essential to it's success. It would be all too easy for Gaddafi to become the latest martyr to American imperialism - despite his despicable, and very public, actions.

  • Comment number 8.

    Can't imagine Colonel Gaddafi, even if it's possible, will cut off the water supply to Benghazi. If he does that, it gives a slam dunk green light for a UN-approved (indeed everyone-approved) invasion to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe; since the dying by thirst (or, if the shortage is less extreme, the inability to wash properly) of a million or so people certainly qualifies as such. Hard to see any other outcome, in those circumstances, but regime change. And he's meant to be a wily operator, isn't he?

  • Comment number 9.

    Its going to end in stalemate, unless we go in, with troops. Cameron is walking a tight rope on this and he is going to fall off...

    There is no appetite in the UK for our involvement in ANOTHER conflict, especially when it is costing us £50 -£100 million a day in ammunition . I thought we were broke???

  • Comment number 10.

    "How will Libya (conflict) end?"

    Like a Robinson blog, we hope.
    Swiftly and without warning.

  • Comment number 11.

    8 Saga

    My guess is that Gaddafi will oblige and agree not to turn of the water supplies, electricity or gas. Of course we do not know how much damage to these supplies have been caused by the Coalitions bombing activities. Not very clever if these people are without supplies due to our making and not Gaddafi's.

  • Comment number 12.

    If this gets really out of hand and seriously expensive, Gaddafi's nemesis could coincide with of the UK.

    Economic reality may seem unpalatable when the lives of all involved are at risk, but it is part ofthe reality of the modern world. That is why we are already in the kacky with the deficit.

  • Comment number 13.

    #10 this one is still going , have the blogs been partitioned too ?

  • Comment number 14.

    Nick Robinson.

    "How will Libya end?"

    humanity 0 - business_as_usual 1.

  • Comment number 15.

    11. Mr N

    "Of course we do not know how much damage to these supplies have been caused by the Coalitions bombing activities. Not very clever if these people are without supplies due to our making and not Gaddafi's."

    Is there any suggestion that this is actually the case or is it just the usual baseless scaremongering which seems to be flourishing on here recently ?

  • Comment number 16.

    How will Libya end? The end will come when we have softened up the Gaddafi military and are then forcibly invited to stop the attacks by the 'revolutionaries'. Furthermore, our latest escapade into the Middle East will end with the people of this country shouldering an even greater deficit than that caused by the bankers. It might provide politically exciting stuff with plenty to report, but it's also a big strain on our resources. Isn't the deficit important anymore? Why do we get so excited about it? Remember the same excitement when we went into the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo etc.? We seem to be a nation obsessed with interfering in other peoples affairs.

    Don't we worry about suicide bombers taking revenge on our citizens in reprisal?
    I know it's not PC to say so, but, countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden seem to have more sense, and a better grasp of national economics.

  • Comment number 17.

    Clearly if the people of Benghazi are denied water, gas and electricity that is a threat to their livelihood in which case the UN has authorised that all necessary measures should be taken to protect them. Resolution 1973 was not just about the establishment of a no-fly zone.

  • Comment number 18.

    It would help if all and sundry stopped referring to Gaddafi's private security machine as the 'Libyan army'. The terminology matters.

    The so called rebels need to assert themselves as the Libyan army so that Gaddafi's private security machine/organisation is seen for what it really is.

    The war will end when the sanctions bite deeper ... Libya is not Iraq ... it needs regular supplies from the sea and air and it needs to sell oil and buy weapons to re-arm Gaddafi's private bodyguard killing machine.

    The intervention is going very well ... a major civilian massacre by Gaddafi's private army has been prevented and it is largely grounded in Tripoli with nowhere to go and will get short on supplies at some stage. The blockade of Tripoli must hold and Gaddafi will need to negotiate his end at some stage.

    One week ago ... things looked very bleak with the prospect of a couple of million refugees starving in Libya with nowhere to live or place to find food and shelter.

    Only the weirdo doom-mongers think that leaving Gaddafi a free hand in killing people is a better option.

    The Coalition need to hold its nerve ... Gaddafi is finished if the sanctions and blockade holds as the people in Tripoli will riot at some stage... and Gaddafi's bodyguards will melt away into the night ... leaving Gaddafi to his fate.


  • Comment number 19.

    It appears that the no fly zone is of limited value. Unless the so called coalition (more accurately the Anglo/American/Franco coalition with very token detachments from minor International players) can increase the number of ground attack aircraft in the Libya airspace to change the balance of the ground forces on the ground. It's interesting that no Arab countries have offer the use of an airbase to make this operation more practical. After the opening one hundred plus barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles, that possibility have evaporated.

    Unless the coalition is going do a regime change. The Libyan rebellion's remaining days is numbered. Colonel Qaddifi have twice the inventory of the equipment he is fielding right now in storage, The rebels don't seem to be able form coherent military units to repel Qaddifi's loyalist units let alone attacking Western Libya.

    Once the public realize that the no-fly zone cost about $100M weekly just for the Libyan coastal strip (and about $300M weekly for the whole of Libya according to some News websites), politicians will be ask how they are going to pay for it along with the concurrent expenditure of lots of expensive munitions and equipment lifespan depreciation (desert & salty sea environments will drastically reduce the operating lifespan of aircrafts).

    I see the Green flag will be raised in Ajdabiya and Benghazi once the Western media lose interest and gone to the next hot News incident.


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