Two weeks into the US-led attack on the Gadhafi government, US officials are increasingly admitted that a stalemate is extremely likely to be the end result of the conflict, with Libya divided between a rebel-held East and a Gadhafi-held West.
The prospect appeared to grow as the East Libyan rebels called for a formal ceasefire with the regime, and while the terms were rejected by the regime, many expect the two sides to eventually hammer out a deal, ending the fighting which has claimed thousands of civilian lives.
But this is unlikely to end the NATO air war in Libya, instead turning it into a long-term siege against the Gadhafi regime, and a new sinkhole for billions in Western aid to assemble a new East Libyan government and keep it on a constant hostile bearing toward its neighbor.
The rebels began with considerable momentum, taking much of the nation before stalling near Tripoli. A counter-offensive was launched by Gadhafi, which likewise appeared to be stalling near the rebel capital of Benghazi before the US and French militaries attacked. The attacks spawned another counter-offensive by the rebels, which stalled once they tried to occupy Gadhafi’s hometown, and sparked another counter-offensive by the regime, pushing near the valuable central oil port of Brega.
Both sides however appear to be facing an eventual equilibrium, with Brega and R’as Lanuf basically the last prizes being contested. Though the US war arguably sped this up, the massive expense of what is likely to be a protracted, Korea-style state of heavily armed belligerence is particularly galling because the stalemate likely would have boiled out without all the international air strikes.