Jim W. Dean: Where is the Benghazi Brigade?

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Where are the 8000 Benghazi Brigade Troops?

The no fly zone is providing air cover. Gaddafi’s armored columns on the coastal road got knocked out. So where are they?

It’s March 22nd. The Benghazi Brigade defected a month ago. Initial reports were of 8000 troops, of whom 3000 were Special Forces. In the ensuing weeks there were a few reports about ‘training’, which one would assume to mean the volunteer rebels. We have also seen a few video clips of young troops doing a bit of drilling and weapons training.

As Tripoli’s counter attack began to recapture rebel towns I expected to see the Benghazi brigades with all their equipment and training to deploy westward to maintain their defense in depth, and especially to control the Ras Lanuf pipelines coming into the port there. It did not happen. All we saw was disorganized fleeing technicals while others were cut off.

But after about two weeks something started to look funny. Gaddafi wisely figured out that with the international strategy committed to

Brega - Ras Lanuf - Pipelines and Roads
getting everybody on board a big coalition,  that would give him about a month to counter attack and bottle up the rebellion primarily in the East.

 

He could isolate the remaining rebel pockets, starving them out if needed, and present an allied intervention with a big country scenario versus taking down  just the Tripoli area…much easier to do.

Next I expected to really see the Benghazi Brigades deployed in the fight for Ras Lanuf. The untrained rebels did the best they could but they did not have anti-armor weapons. That missing item and green troops do not mix well.

“After the uprising started in Benghazi on 17 February and Gaddafi ordered his mercenaries to shoot unarmed protesters, Gen Yunis tried to reason with him by phone (Yunis was in Benghazi, Gaddafi in Tripoli). In response, Gaddafi ordered his murder. The bullet missed and killed Yunis’s nephew instead who was standing next to him in an office.”

“He then concluded that there’s no hope in reasoning with Gaddafi, and defected. As long-time commander of the special forces, he used his contacts to persuade them to defect, taking the whole brigade with them”…VT source.

Rebel Tank - But Where Are the Soldiers?

Then we heard that the Benghazi Army did not want to expose their irreplaceable heavy weapons to air attack, which made some sense. But it begged a major question. What the hell is the point of having an army of trained professionals who sits back and let green troops defend them…unsuccessfully?

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So then I figured, well, they are waiting for the Allies to come in, bomb Gaddafi’s airbases, diminish his armour and navy, and then the rebels would barrel down the coast road to mop up the isolated Tripoli forces so they could not regroup for the big fight for Tripoli within hardened defenses. It did not happen.

And lastly, after the UN vote for the no fly zone and with ‘all necessarymeans’ wordage…I thought that the Benghazi Brigages were definitely going to deploy to the western and southern edges of the city, and set up the routine ambushes you would want to have ready for any attacking columns. With these professional soldiers, Special Forces, they were definitely going to have spotters a good 20 to 50 kilometers out from the city perimeter to warn of attacking columns.

Militia Defenders Only

But last weekend the Gaddafi troops hit Benghazi with an amored columnonly consisting of a reported 300 to 400 troops. From the reports that I saw they were repulsed by the volunteer militia. The post battle report mentioned only 14 dead…way too low for a retreating column of that size getting a surprize air attack. Such an attack produces human confetti.

The dead appeared to be wounded when the column was tipped off that the French planes were coming. Only the Israelis could have done this for Gaddafi, part of his arrangement with them. More on the Israelis contracting the Gaddafi mercenaries and other goodies  in the next column.

But now I knew something was very wrong. It is simply impossible that 8000 trained defecting troops would be sitting in their barracks (big target) while militia technicals repulsed the first armored attack on the city.

I began to suspect…that there was no Benghazi Brigade.

When the initial rebel counter attacks began I saw that no army formations were going in with them. Why not? The Tripoli fighter bomber threat was gone. The coalition had destroyed their armor columns on the coast road. What were they waiting for?  It as time to go back to the source.

“A few days ago General Yunis made an appeal on rebel Free Libya Radio calling on his erstwhile troops to report to work or else face a court martial. This leads me to suspect that when they “defected” they simply threw away their uniforms and vanished/went home.”…VT source.

War is Not Entertainment

This was a shocker. Now I remembered seeing only the occasional professional soldier in uniform amongest the militia. The only training they were getting is how to fire their weapons.

Now I understood why there seemed to be not even any communication among the militia. The professional soldiers were not there, not even to run critical tactical communications for them.  Repeated defeats for militia troops can break their morale.

Remember the video of the militia peopledriving their captured tank around the Benghazi main roads Sunday morning. If there had been any professional military in charge do you think they would allow a working tank to be removed from the front lines like that?

Captured Rebel Party Tank

No. There was no control because there is no functioning army. The first thing a sargeant would have done with a captured tank was phone in to headquarters asking where central command wanted it deployed. Instead it was used for a joy ride.

It was hard to believe, but…I asked myself…Gaddafi must have Intel people in Benghazi to keep him updated. Why would he attack the city with a realtively small armored column when there were 8000 trained Special Forces troops there to repel them?  So back to the  VT source I went.

“You are right: no command structure, no military strategy, nothing. There are reports that British, French and Italian officers are in Benghazi. Maybe organizing training or weapons deliveries”…VT source

Can They Save Themselves Now

I pray that the Special Forces troops return to work. If not, the Misrata folks and the other anti-Gaddafi isolated pockets are in a world of hurt. We are already at the point where I believe only the Marines can save Misrata. The military rebel geniuses who championed ‘we don’t need any foreigners’ will find out what a lonely world it is being on the short end of the stick.

The other surrounded rebel pockets are going to be out of food and water in a few more days at most. We could be looking at another Kurdish or Shia massacre after Gulf War One…where we just watched it happen. If all the Allies have is waiting for the Palace Guard to topple Gaddafi and Sons, we may be looking at another massacre of these isolated pockets.

 

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