March 10th, 2011
06:45 PM ET

Gadhafi likely to survive revolt, U.S. intelligence chief says

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The United States plans to send "purely humanitarian" disaster relief teams into eastern Libya, where rebels battling longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi may be losing ground in that country's civil war, top U.S. officials said Thursday.

White House National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon told reporters that the U.S. Agency for International Development teams will be sent into monitor the delivery of humanitarian aid and should not be viewed as a military operation.

"It can in no way shape or form be seen as military intervention," Donlion said. The teams will assess that humanitarian aid is being delivered, he said, adding, "This is purely humanitarian to better assist in a humanitarian way the people of Libya."

Donilon's announcement came as officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East are debating whether to aid rebel forces, who have been battling to topple Gadhafi since mid-February. But in a blunt assessment to Congress, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Gadhafi's advantage in military force makes him likely to survive the revolt.

Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the rebels are "in for a tough row" against Gadhafi, who still commands warplanes, an air-defense network and loyal army brigades against the opposition forces. He cautioned that the situation is "very fluid," but added, "I think, longer term, the regime will prevail."

"I do believe Gadhafi is in this for the long haul," Clapper said. "I don't think he has any intention, despite some of the press speculation to the contrary, of leaving. From all evidence that we have - which I'd be prepared to discuss in closed session - he appears to be hunkering down for the duration."

The comment led to a call for Clapper's firing by a member of the committee, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. In a statement issued after the hearing, Graham said the remarks were "not helpful to our national security interests."

But Clapper's assessment was backed up by Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Burgess told senators that Gadhafi "seems to have staying power, unless some other dynamic changes at this time."

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. RaLph

    No Fly Zone. We do it because we can. The blood shed does not have to happen. A conference of willing States for this one purpose could set new standards for the new world.

    March 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |