I came across this interesting article today on Foreign Policy‘s website.
It concludes that the Libyan opposition has two faces: the politicians and the fighters. Furthermore, the fighters are divided into three major camps.
The first camp includes “a ragtag bunch of men of all ages and degrees of military training riding pickup trucks around the eastern coastal desert.” The vast majority of these fighers tend be ad hoc, squad-level units with little organization and combat experience. Most of them have never been on the frontlines in the current conflict.
The second group includes former Eastern Libyan military units, who defected from Qaddafi’s regime. For unknown reaons, these units have rarely participated in the current fighting.
The final group consists of the Islamists. Of this group, a “minuscule inner core fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and created the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) upon their return to Libya in the early 1990s.”
While the article is somewhat confusing on this point, it seems that the majority of the fighters at the front are the first group of untrained, non-ideological, ad-hoc units. That said, the bulk of these fighters have yet to fight on the front lines.
Jason Pack, the article’s author, also suggested that much of “eastern Libya remains traditional and religiously conservative.” However, he does not expect this religious conservatism to be much of a problem for Westerners. On the contrary, he sees Islam as a “uniting” and “stabilizing” force in Libya.
I disagree, but only time will tell.