The Libyan government, however, dismissed Koussa’s departure as insignificant. “We are not relying on individuals to lead this struggle,” said spokesman Mussa Ibrahim on Thursday.
“This is the struggle of a whole nation. It is not dependent on individuals or officials,” no matter how high-ranking they may be, said Mr. Ibrahim. “We have millions of people leading this struggle. And this is a fact. So if anyone feels tired, feels sick or exhausted, and they want to take a rest – it happens.”
On the battlefield, Qaddafi loyalists in two days have pushed rebels back some 150 miles – all the way to Ajdabiya. Pro-regime forces reportedly mined the road to prevent a repeat rebel advance like the one that raised rebel hopes earlier this week.
It was not clear how much the CIA effort – which reportedly includes small teams tasked with airstrike targeting, and gauging rebel military needs, alongside British special forces – could help the manifestly disorganized, poorly equipped, and inexperienced rebels.
“The alliance is really waging a two-pronged war, with a political and diplomatic campaign in addition to the airstrikes, and Koussa’s defection – along with the expulsion of the five Libyan diplomats [from London] yesterday – signals the first shots in [that] war,” says Gerges in London. “They want to send an unambiguous signal to the people around Qaddafi that the game is over and that time is running out on them.”