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Libya Table of Contents


Military Opposition

The military remained the most serious threat to the Qadhafi regime. By March 1987, there were signs of disaffection among the officers. In part, this was the result of mounting casualties and setbacks in the Chad war. Such discontent was illustrated by the defection to Egypt in early March of six air force personnel, including a lieutenant colonel. Upon landing at Abu Simbel airfield in Upper Egypt, the airmen denounced Qadhafi's rule and requested asylum.

Qadhafi's calls for a people's army that would eventually replace the professional military evidently disturbed the armed forces. Furthermore, the revolutionary committees often increased their power at the military's expense. In addition, the military resented the revolutionary committees' interference in national security affairs. It was reported, for example, that brief armed clashes between the two groups took place when certain missile positions were unable to respond to the United States air attacks in April 1986 because revolutionary committee members who were supposed to man them could not be found.

That Qadhafi had entrusted the revolutionary committees with the vital mission of manning air defense positions underscored the extent to which he has deployed them to counterbalance the power of the armed forces. It indicated that Qadhafi had learned one vital lesson from the often-turbulent Middle East politics, namely that the military has masterminded most coups d'čtat. In measure to forestall possible coup attempts, military commanders were frequently rotated or forced into early retirement. In 1984, for example, about seventy senior officers were obliged to retire. Despite such precautions, the military had managed to stage most of the attempts against Qadhafi since 1976. Most experts believed that the military was the group most likely to topple Qadhafi.

Data as of 1987