It may not look like victory with the city in ruins and high death-tolls but the Libyan army is withdrawing from Misrata. The freedom-fighters were getting enough support from the sea and NATO air-power that they made occupation too expensive. The freedom-fighters cleaned one area after another the hard way, room to room and building to building. They built some armour for light trucks and heavy machine-guns and chewed away at Gaddafi’s forces until they could not stand it any longer.
The last major outpost of the Gaddafi regime is Sirte but there is still lots of work to do around the country. Gaddafi is essentially dispersing his forces to preserve them so they will be a danger until the end.
If the freedom-fighters can restore Misrata and build it up as a base they can close in on Sirte from two directions and cut off supply-lines to Sirte. Improved communication and coordination, supplies of weapons and equipment and training make the end inevitable. The only questions are how long and at what cost. Last week the situation could be described as a stalemate. Now it is on the verge of being a rout. Gaddafi still has some support in regional tribes but even they can read the writing on the walls.
After the visit of US senator McCain and this progress, I expect the US and others will recognize the National Transitional Council in Benghazi and provide more direct support. The current situation is a tipping point and only a little more help will make all the difference. That the freedom-fighters kept going even with high rates of casualties against armour and artillery shows they have the determination to continue and will have renewed enthusiasm with this breakthrough.
I expect also that even Gaddafi’s loyal followers will see that this is a defeat and more general defeat is inevitable. Many will be seeking an exit with some dignity, either fleeing to Tunisia by land or elsewhere by air or sea. As long has been the support of Gaddafi by various tribes, there is a longer tradition in the Arab world to pick the winner and go over to his side. We saw a lot of that at the beginning of revolution in Libya. Now there will be more.