Not until Muammar Qaddafi is in custody or dead will the Libyan war be over.
Meanwhile, Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, prefer to insist that the deposed Libyan ruler is on the run and it is only a matter of time before he is captured.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources draw attention to the indications that the fall of Tripoli and the Qaddafi regime is only Act One of the still unfinished Libyan drama. Until the curtain comes down on Qaddafi in person, the Libyan war will not be finished.
1. DEBKA-Net-Weekly stands by its assessment that without a political accord promising the orderly transfer of power from Qaddafi to a power-sharing administration which includes his sons, the Libyan conflict will go on for months if not for years.
2. The rebel Transitional National Council therefore hesitates to move from Benghazi to Tripoli as long as it is not safe from the bombardment by pockets of Qaddafi's loyalists. Even after it does relocate to the capital, the odds on the flare-up of civil and tribal warfare are greater than the chances of the TNC being able to make good on its pledges to establish stable governing institutions and call Libya's first ever general election in eight months time.
Bab al-Aziziya – Tripoli's Post-Qaddafi Green Zone
The NTC leader, Mohamed Abdul Jalil, will have to content himself for now with heading a mixed Western-Arab-Muslim administration propped up by foreigners – the British, French, Jordanian and Qatari special forces who were the real conquerors of Tripoli and who caused Qaddafi to flee, as well as NATO and Turkey, whose special forces secured rebel headquarters in Benghazi while they were busy capturing Tripoli.
The new regime will start out with an army and police force at its disposal and most likely establish its seat in Qaddafi's old stronghold, the Bab al-Aziziya compound, which will assume the character of the US-Iraqi- controlled Green Zone of Baghdad.
To safeguard this area of some six square kilometers in the heart of Tripoli, NATO will need at least one armored division along with aerial surveillance units, special operations forces trained in urban combat, engineering forces and intelligence units – including field intelligence and electronic surveillance.
Even then, the rest of Tripoli will not be safe from Qaddafi loyalists who know every nook and cranny of the city better than any NATO soldier.
Usually eager to go out into the streets and wave flags, the ordinary Libyan will soon discover that his country has reverted to a form of European colonial rule from which Libya was liberated just 59 years ago.
In Qaddafi's hands the "War on Colonial Rule" will be an extremely potent tool for inciting popular counter-revolution.
Qaddafi still holds 40 percent of Libya's land area
He began wielding it in a broadcast Thursday night, Aug. 25, in which he called on the tribes across Libya to "fight foreign intervention."
3. If the deposed ruler is caught within a few days, which the British and French think is possible, his support system may founder with him. But not if the hunt drags out for long, say our military sources. In time, his success in vanishing with his family and some 300 top military and intelligence aides under the noses of the rebel, British and French forces controlling Tripoli, will become the stuff of popular folklore, affect Libya's stability and impress people in other Arab countries.
4. That success means that the ousted ruler has escaped with his entire ruling establishment. He therefore has the administrative machinery for continuing to rule large parts of Libya in the south and west. The forces stationed outside Tripoli during the city's fall remain in control of the region around his tribal hometown of Sirte east of Tripoli and the Fezzan area in southwest Libya, where most of the Libyan oilfields are located.
After his ouster, Qaddafi appears to control close to 40 percent of Libya's land area.
As for Tripoli, NATO and rebels will have to keep on fighting to maintain their grip there while his loyalists strike from the shadows. In other Tripolitanian towns, the rebels of the East will find they are not welcome. Qaddafi will meanwhile rally the tribal chiefs, first to secure their own territory and second to put up recruits to fight under his flag.
Qaddafi commands enough cash to fight on indefinitely
5. Several times in the past six months, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources referred to the vast sums of money Qaddafi has kept hoarded within his reach. The roughly $130 billion worth of assets frozen in Western countries are believed to be no more than 15 percent of his fortune of nearly a trillion dollars.
Some of this money is buried in underground tunnels in the southern Libya desert, while the rest is invested in funds whose whereabouts are known only to Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.
So the former Libyan ruler has enough money to keep the war going indefinitely without outside support.
His circumstances are quite different from those of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden whose secret life in a Pakistan garrison city depending on the protection of Pakistani military intelligence-ISI – or Saddam Hussein who lived in an underground burrow.
Unlike them, Qaddafi has the wherewithal for waging a bloody campaign from Libyan soil against NATO and whoever is in power in Tripoli.