Sirte is one of the last enclaves in Libya still held by Gaddafi loyalists. A coastal town which is also Gaddafi’s birthplace, Sirte is full of Gaddafi loyalists and the National Transitional Council doesn’t have any supporters over there. Defended by the remnants of the Libyan army and possibly some mercenaries, Sirte has been putting up a tough fight and the untrained TNC militias have been taking huge casualties. As usual, NATO’s war planes have been bombing targets in Sirte. Is NATO justified in bombing Sirte when the town is overwhelmingly pro- Gaddafi?
In March this year, I had pleaded that the US and NATO ought to support the Libyan rebels who had risen up following the Arab spring and were in danger of being wiped out by well-trained Libyan government forces.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot and the TNC rebels are fighting to capture a town whose populace wants to be with Gaddafi. I don’t blame the rebels for wanting to have the whole of Libya under their control. However, should NATO continue to interfere in this war?
There is no guarantee that the NTC rebels will be better human beings than Gaddafi’s thugs. There are already credible reports of large scale violence against black Africans living in Libya on the ground that many mercenaries from black Africa are fighting for Gaddafi.
If NATO stops supporting the NTC, it is very likely to prolong the fighting and agony. So, NATO should continue to support the NTC. However, NATO should also insist that the NTC try and reach a settlement which will see Gaddafi leave Libya, but will guarantee autonomy and respect for towns like Sirte and Bani Wadi. Also, the rebels must be forced to agree to not to carry out reprisal attacks against Gaddafi’s supporters after Gaddafi’s exit.