Libyan rebels sit at the back of a pick-up truck before leaving Ajdabiya to the front line near the oil town of Brega on Friday. Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images.
After weeks of gains and setbacks in cities from Benghazi to Misrata, opposition leaders in Libya say they would accept a cease-fire if Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi halts his siege on contested cities and allows for open protests in the country. Mustafa Abdul-Jali, head of the opposition’s governing council, stressed that the leaders’ ultimate goal remains the end of Gadhafi’s regime.
Militarily, the opposition have suffered losses at Ras Lanouf and Brega, after initially gaining momentum from the international air strikes on Gafhafi’s heavily armed and organized troops. The fact that air strikes alone have not solidified their gains has raised political debate among allies over whether to assist rebels more directly. The Obama administration has said there will be no U.S. ground troops placed in Libya, but has not eliminated the possibility of arming the opposition fighters. In testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates repeated the administration’s position that there will be no “boots on the ground” in Libya, a concern of lawmakers who pointed to existing commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite the military gains for Gadhafi, the defection of his foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, in London may point to weakening within his inner circle. Gadhafi himself remained defiant in an audio address on Libyan state television Thursday, though he did not appear on camera.