The Road to Tripoli

In a few short weeks, the Libyan opposition has won the support of the population in the east without accomplishing much more than forming a provisional political body. To maintain that support, however, opposition leaders need sustained military success.

BENGHAZI – In the days since the February 17 revolution against Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, opposition forces in Benghazi have formed a Transitional National Council (TNC) and a Crisis Team (CT) to serve as an interim government. The two groups are drawn from a cross-section of society. Some members held senior posts in Qaddafi’s government; others were social activists. Both groups are now quite popular among the population in rebel-controlled parts of Libya.

But if rebel troops are unable to advance toward the capital of Tripoli, and instead remain deadlocked with Qaddafi’s forces between the towns of Ajdabiyya and Brega, the opposition will face a serious dilemma. A military impasse could erode their support and even delegitimize them.

When forming the councils, the opposition sought to achieve a balance between government experience, technical expertise, and tribal support. Thus, while some members, such as former Justice Minister and TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, were affiliated with Qaddafi’s government, others, such as CT Economic and Finance chief Ali Tarhouni, have lived outside of Libya for almost 30 years. And powerful clans from Tobruk have succeeded in placing their members in key military positions.