Qaddafi’s forces struck out in all directions from Tripoli in the last 24 hours, and in one case had success — they captured the small hill town of Gharyan in what AP described as a “surprise attack.” (AP also says they took Sabratha, but I think that had already been under regime control). He seems to have a lot more supporters organized for offensive action than he did a few days ago, when he wasn’t able to do much more than raid into a then-poorly defended Zawiya. Zawiya now however has put together what seems to be an effective defense, and dealth Qaddafi’s troops a significant defeat, while Misrata and Zintan also repulsed attacks.
Qaddafi clearly has the initiative for time being — his troops are able to move , while the rebel forces seem to be having difficulties getting a mobile force together. This is not surprising — even with an established military chain of command, where soldiers respond quickly to orders, it can take a lot of time to assemble hundreds of vehicles and get them all moving. They would also probably have to coordinate any attack in the west from multiple towns — and to move from the east, along a long desert highway, at risk of attack from the air, and perhaps to fight their way through Surt, is a daunting task. Luckily it is much easier for a local rebel militia force to organize a defense — fighters can basically operate on their own initiative — so long as they are not greatly outnumbered, outgunned, or taken by surprise.
Updated map of the Libyan uprising available here.
I’ve also written an article on arabist.net on the significance of Libya’s uprising in terms of discrediting the notion that unrest can always be crushed, if a regime is ruthless enough.
From the blogger Zenobia, a very useful set of descriptions of the members of Egypt’s armed forces council can be found here.