An imprisoned Libyan army colonel who surrendered to the rebel forces two months ago told AFP on Saturday that Moamer Kadhafi’s regime is riven with division and in the process of collapse.
Speaking from a prisoner of war camp in the rebel enclave of Misrata, Colonel Wissam Miland said Kadhafi’s military hangs together through coercion and mercenary-enforced martial law, but that infighting is rife.
“I think it will soon collapse,” he said, offering a rare glimpse inside Kadhafi’s three-pronged loyalist force, made of up army regulars, militia fighters and mercenaries.
“Among the militias, the Libyan soldiers were starting to fight with the foreign mercenaries, there are many problems,” he said in an interview.
“Kadhafi is losing now because of this,” he said, pointing to a series of recent military losses suffered by the regime.
The prospect of mounting divisions among Kadhafi’s fighters will be an encouraging sign for many NATO countries, which have warned that there can be no clear-cut military solution to Libya’s nearly six-month-old civil war.
Since the beginning of the revolt, the alliance — along with Libya’s rebels — has used sanctions, diplomacy and brute force to try to cleave off parts of Kadhafi’s inner circle in the hope of hitting the regime’s tipping point.
The prospect that Kadhafi’s use of foreign mercenaries may be backfiring will also offer hope that the once oil-rich regime could be running out of options.
While it has long been known that Kadhafi has used paid fighters from Chad, Niger, Mauritania and other Sahel nations, their role has not always been clear.
“Within my unit there were a lot of mercenaries,” Miland said. “But they are not fighting with the army — they surround the army. They don’t let anyone fall back. If you retreat, they will kill you.”
But, Miland warned, Kadhafi is also successfully using economic, social and political levers to sustain his regime.
“Most of the soldiers are illiterate, they are just trained very hard and they are told that Kadhafi is the most important person in the world — ‘Your life depends on Kadhafi, if Kadhafi loses, you lose’,” he said.
“Most soldiers fight, because they do believe that without Kadhafi they cannot live.”
And as the death toll mounts, there are also signs that Kadhafi’s war effort has gathered some self-sustaining momentum.
“Some people are fighting not because they like him, but because their cousins or relatives have been killed,” Miland said.