"We continue to degrade his military capabilities" and there's a good chance there will soon be "some cracking" in Moammar Gadhafi's military command, but "no one can predict" how long it will take to accomplish regime change in Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told the House Armed Services Committee.
Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are at the witness table now. The hearing is being webcast by the committee and C-SPAN.org.
NPR's Liz Halloran is covering the story and will be filling on the news for NPR.org, as will Frank over at It's All Politics. And we'll update with more news as the hearing continues. Gates and Mullen are also due to testify before the Senate Armed Services this afternoon.
NPR's coverage of the conflict in Libya is collected here.
Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. No 'Boots On The Ground.'
The latest Associated Press story begins with this:
"As the U.S. debates its future role in the Libyan conflict, defense officials slammed the brakes on any broad participation Thursday, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying there will be no American ground troops in Libya 'as long as I am in this job.' "
Update at 10:20 a.m. ET. Who Are The Rebels?
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) told Gates a few moments ago that if the administration asked Congress for a resolution of support for the Libya campaign, "I doubt that it would pass ... and I would not vote for it." The reason, Turner said, was that "we don't know who they [the opposition in Libya] are" and whether they would be allies in the future.
In response, Gates said that "we may not know much about the opposition or the rebels, but we know a great deal about Gadhafi." He reminded Turner that concrete barriers first went up around Washington, D.C., in 1983 because of intelligence that indicated Gadhafi wanted to try to kill President Reagan.
"This guy has been a huge problem for the United States for a long time," Gates added. And nations have joined together to oppose Gadhafi "not because they know a lot about the opposition but because they now a lot about Gadhafi."