April 1, 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday told the House Armed Services Committee that no one will be able to predict how long the military mission in Libya will take.

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Gates said that as NATO takes control of the military mission, the United States will significantly “ramp down” its role in the operation. Exceptions would include providing unique capabilities that others cannot match in both kind and scale, such as electronic warfare, aerial refueling, and intelligence.

Gates also told lawmakers that other nations rather than the United States should provide training or assistance to Libyan rebels, as “that is not a unique capability for the U.S. and as far as I’m concerned somebody else should do that.”

The defense secretary’s comments came as Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s forces struck forcefully back at the rebels this week, recapturing lost ground and triggering pleas for help from the battered and failing opposition forces.

The defense secretary and Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were appearing Thursday before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee in the wake of new revelations that small teams of CIA operatives are working in Libya.

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