Moammar Gadhafi remains at large. His supporters are well- armed. Fighting rages on three fronts, even as NATO warplanes drop more bombs.
This doesn't sound much like victory. But don't tell that to the crowds packing Martyrs' Square in Tripoli every night with the boom of celebratory gunfire as a soundtrack.
A month after revolutionary fighters claimed the capital and most other parts of the country, forces loyal to Gadhafi have shown no signs of giving up, raising the prospect of a long-term insurgency.
Libya's new rulers dismiss those fears and say time is on their side, insisting the holdouts in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabha were die-hard supporters, including many who escaped the Tripoli blitz and believe they have no choice but to resist or face war crimes charges themselves.
"These people will fight to the last breath," said Sadeq al-Kabir, a Tripoli representative on the National Transitional Council, which led the rebellion and is the closest thing Libya has to a government.
He said rebels believe some of the main regime figures are still hiding in the areas, including Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam.
"This makes them more fierce and they are using civilians as human shields, which makes it even harder for our fighters to enter the cities as they try to avoid bloodshed."
The fall of Tripoli, which occurred after revolutionary forces stormed the city of some 2 million people on Aug. 21 and gained control after days of gunbattles, happened surprisingly quickly after months of stalemate in other areas.
The uprising against Gadhafi began in mid-February in the eastern city of Benghazi and quickly became a civil war as inexperienced fighters _ mostly volunteer civilians who took up arms as they faced a brutal crackdown by the regime _ were outgunned by Gadhafi's better-trained forces.
President Barack Obama said the international community must continue to support Libyans in solidifying their gains.
"From Tripoli to Misrata to Benghazi, today Libya is free," he said in an address at the U.N. General Assembly. "Now all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya, the new Libyan government, as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans."
Gadhafi relied heavily on tribal ties, patronage and money to bolster his support and maintain power for nearly 42 years, making him the longest ruling Arab leader. He didn't even trust his own army and used militias run by his sons Khamis, Muatassim and al-Saadi as an additional protection force.
Many of Gadhafi's fighters fled to Sirte, where his own Gadhadhfa tribe is based, and other bastions of support where they have waged a fierce resistance.
Frederic Wehrey, a Libya expert with the RAND Corp., said Gadhafi's supporters most likely feel desperate.
"It is real loyalty, but it also may be fear of retribution," he said. "They may genuinely feel that there can be no place for them in the new order."
The international community also has expressed concern about the proliferation of weapons, with the U.S. saying it would take an active role in securing thousands of rocket launchers, mines and small arms from Gadhafi's once vast arsenal in Libya.
The revolutionary forces are more skilled after nearly seven months of fighting, but they still have been unable to rout the loyalists from their strongholds. A twin assault on Sirte and Bani Walid was repelled last week with a heavy barrage of rocket fire and other heavy weaponry. Revolutionary forces have claimed some progress in the desert stronghold of Sabha, which is the last major Libyan city on the road south to Niger.
Wehrey said the main reason these towns have not fallen is because of the rebels' continuing "lack of competence" on the battlefield, their exhaustion, and in some cases the terrain favoring the defenders.
The persistence of Gadhafi's forces has drawn comparisons with the insurgency that beset Iraq after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, who was found nine months later hiding in a spider hole.
Libyans and experts point to key differences in Libya, most notably the lack of foreign troops. Although NATO began backing the rebels with almost daily airstrikes under a March U.N. mandate to protect civilians _ and approved a 90-day extension for the mission on Wednesday _ the Libyan uprising itself was homegrown.
Libya also does not face the same sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites, and it lacks neighboring countries with an interest in stoking the violence.
"The Libyan people and I refuse to be compared to Iraq," said Hassan Essghayr, a political adviser to the NTC. "We were taken under occupation. We started the revolution."
Wehrey said he believed it was only a matter of time before the remaining Gadhafi strongholds fall, but he said the transitional government must move fast to restore normalcy in the country or face broader opposition.
"Within the rebel ranks is another source of instability and insurgency," he said, suggesting young men who have been fighting for months could form private armies if they become dissatisfied with the country's new leaders.
The interim government has yet to announce a timeline for elections and political infighting has blocked the formation of a new Cabinet.
"Routing those holdouts is an important final step in bringing closure," Wehrey said. "But the real test of legitimacy is: can they provide electricity and other services and get the arms off the streets?"
Associated Press writer Rami al-Shaheibi contributed to this report from Benghazi.