March 10, 2011 -- Col. Moammar Gadhafi will prevail if the current stalemate in Libya drags on and the rebels are "in for a tough road," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress today.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss worldwide threats, Clapper said it is the intelligence community's assessment that "Gadhafi is in this for the long haul."
"We don't think he has any intention -- despite the press speculation to the contrary -- of leaving," Clapper said. "From all the evidence we have ... he appears to be hunkering down for the duration."
In Clapper's view, the situation in Libya will come down to who has the greater logistical resources at hand and, Clapper said, "I think that, from a standpoint of attrition, that over time [with] this kind of a stalemate back and forth ... I think in the longer term that the regime will prevail.
"I think the regime has more logistical resources, in terms of the equipment they have," Clapper said. "The first line equipment anywhere in Libya is held by the regime forces."
There are two special Libyan Army brigades that "are very, very loyal to Gadhafi and do his bidding," Clapper said. "They're the most robustly equipped -- to include air defense, artillery, tanks, mechanized equipment -- and they appear to be much more disciplined about how they treat and repair that equipment."
By design those brigades were the most loyal to Gadhafi and the most "luxuriously equipped and the best trained," he said.
Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the committee that the "media had it about right" that the initial momentum was with the forces opposed to Gadhafi, but that it has now started to shift.
"We have now reached a state of equilibrium where the initiative, if you will, may actually be on the regime side," said Burgess. "But we're watching that in these days" because it remains unclear if it is fully in Gadhafi's favor.
Gadhafi has an advantage on the ground and in the air in the western half of the country as opposed to the eastern half that is controlled by the opposition, Burgess said, "so right now he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic" arises.
Overall, Clapper described Libya as "a very fluid situation" and difficult for the U.S. intelligence community to assess because of the tactic being used by Gadhafi's forces of attacking towns and then pulling back to repair or refit equipment.
"So these places are changing hands" several times, he said.
Top military officials recently have said that enforcing a no-fly zone would require combat action to take out surface-to-air missile batteries to protect fighters in the sky.
Clapper described the Libyan air defense structure as "quite substantial" in terms of ground radars and surface-to-air missile sites, second only to Egypt in the region in numbers and quality.
In addition to the 31 surface-to-air missile sites the Libyans have, Clapper said, also of concern are the "large, large number" of portable surface-to-air missiles in their arsenal.
Though the Libyans have a large air force, Clapper said, only about 80 aircraft are operational, with only a third of them fighter aircraft. The rest are a mix of helicopters and cargo aircraft.
Though they have been used in attacks on rebel fighters, Clapper said, the Libyan air force is "akin to the gang that couldn't shoot straight" because they are dropping their bombs visually. That has resulted in some physical damage, but also not many casualties.
Clapper suggested one possible outcome for Libya -- that the country reverts to the "three semi-autonomous mini-states" that existed before Libya was created, with tribal politics coming into play.
"We could have an outcome where we could have both parties survive," he said, with Gadhafi remaining in power in Tripoli and the opposition in the east around Benghazi.