Tuesday, February 22
According to Fox News Cable about a half hour ago: al Jazeera has reported that Libya's Interior Minister has defected and called for the army "to join the people." It seems many in the army have already joined the people, but the people might need more than Libya's army on their side because of the crack security brigades Gadhafi commands, which are better trained and better equipped than the army. Right now it looks inevitable that he'll be driven from power but the brigades can kill a great many Libyans before he throws in the towel or is bumped off. From Lauren Frayer's report for AOL News at 11:53 AM ET today, which weighs claims that Gadhafi is using mercenaries and discusses the brigades:
[...] Another reason Gadhafi may have opted to use foreign mercenaries against his people is because he understands his army's weaknesses -- precisely because he created them.
The last time Libya's armed forces fought any major war was in 1987 in Chad. Thousands of Libyans were killed, and the conflict taught Gadhafi an important lesson: that his armed forces might not be up to snuff. After that he established separate security brigades to protect his regime, apart from the regular army. They're elite paramilitary forces, smaller in number than the Libyan army, but thought to be fiercely loyal to Gadhafi.
The infamously paranoid Libyan leader has also long feared a military coup -- the same type that brought him to power in 1969. So he has intentionally kept his own army understaffed and under-equipped, according to Charles Gurdon, a Libya expert who runs Menas Associates, a political risk consultancy in London.
"They did not have modern weapons and they didn't even have ammunition for a number of years," Gurdon told AOL News. "On the other hand, there are security brigades designed to fight against the army if necessary, and to protect the regime."
Ruthless and devoutly loyal to Gadhafi, it's those security brigades that Gurdon believes are attacking unarmed protesters in Libya's main squares, perhaps with the help of [foreign mercernaries]. Most of the Libyan leader's sons have their own security brigades as well.
Gadhafi's reliance on such brigades shows he may have anticipated the army's switching sides -- as was the case in Egypt earlier this month -- and thus lined up a tougher, more loyal force even years in advance. Guron said he has received reports of Libyan soldiers being executed by members of the security brigades.
"Some members of the army have been killed for not fighting, and they were killed by people within the security brigades, because they disobeyed orders to attack protesters," he said. [...]