Unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, it is not the conventional military that holds the balance of power in Libya.
Instead, it is a murky network of paramilitary brigades, "revolutionary committees" of trusted followers, tribal leaders and imported foreign mercenaries.
The actual Libyan Army is almost symbolic, a weakened and emaciated force of little more than 40,000, poorly armed and poorly trained. It is part of Col Muammar Gaddafi's long-term strategy to eliminate the risk of a military coup, which is how he himself came to power in 1969.
So the defection this month of some elements of the army to the protesters in Benghazi is unlikely to trouble Col Gaddafi. Not only can he do without them, his security apparatus has not hesitated to call in air strikes on their barracks in the rebellious east of the country.
So, who is propping up his regime and allowing it to stay in power while two of its neighbouring leaders have fled amid a massive momentum for regime change throughout the Middle East? ...
There are persistent reports that Col Gaddafi's regime has been making extensive use of hired African mercenaries, mostly from the Sahel countries of Chad and Niger, to carry out atrocities against unarmed civilian protesters.
Libyan witnesses say they have been firing from rooftops into crowds of demonstrators, in essence carrying out the orders that many Libyan soldiers have refused to obey.
Col Gaddafi has long fostered close relations with African countries, having turned his back on the Arab world some time ago, and there are an estimated 500,000 African expatriates in Libya out of a total population of six million.
The number of those serving as pro-Gaddafi mercenaries is thought to be quite small but their loyalty to his regime is said to be unquestioned and there are reports of extra flights being laid on to bring in more in recent days. ...
via BBC News - Libya: Who is propping up Gaddafi?.