The new guys. Uniforms, not blue jeans. Muzzle cover on AA gun while traveling. Somebody here at least knows what he's doing.
A cautionary tale, the lesson of which is train now, win later. I've been waiting to see some sense exhibited on the military side of the opposition, and here it is. They let the mobs of undisciplined kids with Kalashnikovs in pickups occupy K's forces while they trained, organized, saw to logistics and commo, and generally whipped a semi-competent force together. Like I said, a cautionary tale. Train now, prepare now so you won't die later.
Libya Opposition Shows Disciplined, Prepared Front
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. . .
. . . At the main front, which has moved back and forth in a fringe between the rebel-held east and Gadhafi-ruled west, the rebels' losses this week underlined the inferiority of their equipment, training and organization, compared to the regime's.
There were signs of at least some rebel improvement in all three areas Friday.
The rebels had mortars, weapons they previously seemed to lack, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers – more artillery than usual. The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones. A newly installed diesel generator, allowing pumps at a gas station east of the main fighting, was another improvement.
They also appeared to get some international air support. Rebels east of Ajdabiya chanted "Allah akbar," or "God is great," as two planes flew overhead, and later eight to 10 heavy blasts – more powerful than regular shelling – were heard in the west, where Gadhafi's forces were. . .
. . . The better organized rebel force took a long time to deploy mainly because it was being drawn up from scratch.
"We were setting up and training and establishing units all over Libya," said Hamid Muftah, 41, a former member of air force now with the rebels. The volunteers got about 25 days of training and have been organized into six- or seven-member groups each led by a defector from the regular military.
"They're still not that good, but they'll get experience," Muftah said.
"We can't just do what we want now," said Nasser Zwei, a 40-year-old oil engineer behind the wheel of an oil-company pickup truck, now equipped with an anti-aircraft gun. "We follow directions. It will make a difference."
Now untrained fighters are turned away at checkpoints. They stay to the rear to hold the line temporarily in case Gadhafi's forces attempt to flank the trained rebels, said Ali Bin-Amr, a 26-year-old fighter.
Al-Shiri, the former high ranking officer, said the improvements were set up over the past weeks. He blamed "lack of organization" for the rebels' failure to reach Sirte, the Gadhafi stronghold they were marching on last week when they were turned back by an overwhelming force of artillery and rocket fire.
Now "we get orders from the military council in Benghazi. They're in control. The army is in control," he said. The undisciplined fighters "are not leading the way anymore."