C.J. Chivers's latest report from Libya paints a picture of a ragtag rebel force that doesn't have the proper guns to really fight. He describes men armed with antique rifles that won't take modern ammunition, some carrying machine guns that should be mounted on tanks and don't have triggers and a plethora of mismatched heavy weaponry stuck into the beds of pickup trucks.
With three Western countries sending military advisors and the United States pledging $25 million in "non-lethal" aid, it seems the rebels might prefer a few crates of rifles. Ironically, some of the guns Chivers describes -- namely the antique Carcano cavalry carbine -- go for hundreds of dollars in online auctions. But they're worthless on the battlefield.
Here are some images (some, including the photo above, are by Getty photographer Chris Hondros who was killed in the combat yesterday), that show just how ragged a fighting force the United States and Europe are supporting.
Libyan rebel fighters mill around at a side street next to Tripoli street, in the besieged city of Misrata on April 20, 2011. A plea from rebel leaders in Misrata for Western ground troops comes as the population slides deeper into desperation, with energy, food, fuel and medicine stocks all becoming depleted. (Photo by Odd Anderson/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan rebel fighters flash the victory sign as they approach the Tripoli Street frontline in Misrata on April 20, 2011. A group of rebel soldiers made their way from house to house along the frontline trying to target loyalist snipers in surrounding buildings. (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building (background) during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Rebel fighters fire at government loyalist troops during street fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misurata April 20. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Libyan rebels check a French-made anti-tank Milan rocket launcher tube at the western gate of the strategic town of Ajdabiya on April 20, 2011. France and Italy joined Britain in sending military advisers to insurgent-held eastern Libya, as Tripoli warned that foreign boots on the ground would prolong the conflict. (Photo by Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan rebels deploy at the western gate of the strategic restive town of Ajdabiya, on April 19, 2011, as French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said while on a trip to the Ukraine that his country will step up its air strikes in to protect civilians from Moamer Kadhafi's forces. (Photo by Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)
A Libyan rebel stands on a tank gun at the western gate of the strategic rebel-held eastern crossroads town of Ajdabiya, on April 18, 2011. (Photo by Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)
A Libyan rebel wearing a pilot's helmet fires a heavy machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck during heavy clashes with fighters loyal to Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli street in central Misrata, 75 miles east of Tripoli, on April 18, 2011 as a doctor reported 1,000 people killed in six weeks of fighting in the besieged city. (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
A Libyan rebel takes cover behind a destroyed military vehicle during heavy clashes with fighters loyal to Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli street in central of Misrata. (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)