The Road to Tripoli

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.

The councils are, moreover, largely a regional affair, with members mostly coming from eastern Libya. Those with roots in the western regions are mainly dissidents who have lived abroad for decades. TNC officials admit that some council members are based in western Libya, but have refused to identify them for security reasons.