If this New York Times report is right, the coalition is now providing close air support for a rebel offensive, bombarding military targets in Surt — a coastal city in the heart of Qaddafi’s tribal base where his forces “enjoy widespread support . . . and pose no threat to civilians.”
“The regime still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily,” Gen. Carter F. Ham, the ranking American in the coalition operation, warned in an email message on Monday. “The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened.”
General Ham said there had been some “localized wavering” of government forces, notably in Ajdabiya, to the east, but so far only isolated instances of military or government officials defecting to the opposition. His remarks came after American and European bombs battered the coastal city of Surt — the rebels’ next objective — in Colonel Qaddafi’s tribal homeland on Sunday night, permitting the insurgents to advance toward the city’s doorstep.