I think it was pretty clear a couple of weeks ago that the military situation has tipped away from Gaddafi’s forces. They have been steadily weakened while the rebels gained strength and territory. Today, the political tipping point has been reached with several governments now recognizing the TNC (Transitional National Council). The latest was USA. This should free many $billions of funds frozen internationally to allow the TNC to further solidify Free Libya.
While the political maneuvering is helpful, the work still has to be done on the ground. With increasingly experienced fighters, using better equipment and tactics, and the likelihood of uninterrupted support in food, funds and infrastructure, it is hard to see failure for the rebels. The ports of Tobruk, Benghazi, Brega and Misurata are in their hands and supplies can be distributed very efficiently by sea, land and air. On the western front, rebel fighters are closing routes from Tripoli to the South where fighters and equipment from friendly African states have been coming in. It is possible that Gaddafi has already fled Tripoli since he recently gave a public speech in the South.
It is possible that Gaddafi’s regime could run an insurgency for years distributed in the remote parts of Libya but that should not prevent Libya from forming a new representative government. Cut off from revenue from oil and faced with a determined population willing to fight and to defend their country, any insurgency is likely to fail.
There is some momentum to finish warfare by Ramadan which comes in August this year. That is possible, at least in the major centers if Gaddafi’s fighters realize the end is near and cease fighting. Ramadan is a time of fasting and the heat will be intense so we may be limited to night-fighting by then. I think the odds are about 50:50 that hostilities will wind down by Ramadan. If not, certainly within a few months attrition will eliminate Gaddafi’s forces from all but a few pockets of resistance. Tripoli may well be the last holdout but under siege they will exhaust materiel sometime in 2011. They just don’t have enough artillery and armour to matter much longer. Bullets alone will not turn back the tide and the tighter the circle around Tripoli the more hopeless will be the fighters inside.