Inside the Ring

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - Bill Gertz Rowan Scar­bor­ough

Height­en­ing

U.S. forces are be­dev­iled, not to men­tionkilledand­wounded,by­road­side bombs called im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices. But sol­diers have be­come bet­ter at find­ing the buried bombs or con­duct­ing sweep det­o­na­tions­be­fore­con­voys­pass.This­de­nies theen­e­mytheop­por­tu­ni­ty­tore­motely det­o­nate the IEDs us­ing cell phones, garage door open­ers, ig­ni­tion wires and other off-the-shelf elec­tron­ics.

But com­man­ders of­ten say this is a “think­ing en­emy.” Re­al­iz­ing the Amer­i­cans were get­ting bet­ter at de­tect­ing or det­o­nat­ing their IEDs, the in­sur­gents changed tac­tics. They started at­tach­ing the IEDs to util­ity poles.

Soon,the­word­wentout­from­com­man­ders: Con­voys must look up as well as down for road­side bombs.

Power­ball

There were few light mo­ments inside the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing room as De­fense Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Robert M. Gates took con­fir­ma­tion ques­tions from sen­a­tors.

But the back-and-forth with Sen. Ben Nelson, Ne­braska Demo­crat, did bring a chuckle when dis­cussing the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Nelson asked about in­creas­ing the $25 mil­lion re­ward for bin Laden’s cap­ture or killing.

“That ob­vi­ously hasn’t been enough money to get some­body to turn­himin,asy­ousay,one­ofhisown forces to turn him in,” the sen­a­tor said.“What­wouldy­ou­think­aboutin­creas­ing the amount of that re­ward or that bounty by $1 mil­lion a week?

“It’s cer­tainly a small num­ber com­pared­tothe­cost­so­four­con­flict — un­til it reaches a break­ing point where­some­bodysaysthat’se­nough, and I’ll give him up for $35 mil­lion or $40 mil­lion — just keep adding it. Be­cause the costs of the war are so sig­nif­i­cant, and yet the sym­bol­ism of this in­di­vid­ual is still sig­nif­i­cant in that part of the world. What are your thoughts about that?”

Mr. Gates: “Sort of ‘Ter­ror­ist Power­ball.’ ”

Mr. Nelson: “Yes. Some­body wins — some­body al­ways wins the lot­tery. It’s just a ques­tion of when and how much it is at the time.”

Rums­feld de­par­ture

De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld has been all but in­vis­i­ble since his res­ig­na­tion was an­nounced Nov. 8. Al­though he leaves this month with a rep­u­ta­tion as a tough taskmas­ter who ruf­fled feath­ers and broke china, many who worked closely with him say he will be sorely missed.

“He brought a clear strate­gic pur­pose in mak­ing sure U.S. forces are at the top of their war-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and that our ad­ver­saries un­der­stood that,” said a vet­eran of­fi­cial who did not al­ways agree with Mr. Rums­feld but says he will miss him.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials, how­ever, are breath­ing a sigh of re­lief that two key Rums­feld aides are go­ing: Stephen Cam­bone, the un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense for intelligence, and Ryan Henry, prin­ci­pal deputy un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense for pol­icy.

“I think ev­ery­one in the build­ing is breath­ing a sigh of re­lief that they’ll be gone,” said the vet­eran of­fi­cial, who crit­i­cized the two of­fi­cials for un­der­min­ing Mr. Rums­feld’s poli­cies. “They did se­ri­ous harm to na­tional se­cu­rity.”

One State De­part­ment of­fi­cial noted that Mr. Henry, who never re­vealed his past work on Capi­tol Hill for a Demo­crat when he was hired at the Pen­tagon, was the ar­chi­tect of a ma­jor pol­icy shop re­or­ga­ni­za­tion that was so badly done it placed re­spon­si­bil­ity for nu­clear weapons and mis­sile de­fense poli­cies un­der the as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for spe­cial op­er­a­tions and low-in­ten­sity con­flict.

Mr. Cam­bone failed to com­plete any ma­jor up­grades and re­forms of intelligence sought by Mr. Rums­feld, who had made beef­ing up de­fense-re­lated intelligence ca­pa­bil­i­ties a ma­jor pri­or­ity, the of­fi­cials said. The only mi­nor suc­cesses within the newly cre­ated intelligence of­fice were ac­com­plished by Army Lt. Gen. Ger­ald Boykin.

Com­ments last week by Mr. Gates that he does not like “off-line intelligence or­ga­ni­za­tions or an­a­lyt­i­cal groups”are­seen­byPen­tagonof­fi­cials as a sign he likely will dis­man­tle the un­der­sec­re­tary for intelligence post and­give­more­au­thor­i­ty­toCIAandthe De­fense Intelligence Agency.

SOFs vs. reg­u­lars

Sev­eral mil­i­tary of­fi­cers tell us the Army is slow­ing down its warfight­ing tempo in Iraq and now is en­gaged in “just a de­ploy­ment,” al­beit one that is still deadly.

Mil­i­tary com­man­ders are fo­cused mainly on not los­ing lives to deadly im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices, sui­cide bombers or snipers and “have gone risk-averse,” we are told, with many troops holed up in com­pounds.

By con­trast, spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces are wag­ing war against in­sur­gents and for­eign ter­ror­ists be­hind the scenes, and they are pro­duc­ing valu­able “ac­tion­able” intelligence.

The dan­gers con­tinue. “If you want a com­bat in­fantry­man’s badge, walk out of any com­pound in Ra­madi and you can earn it in five min­utes,” one of­fi­cer noted.

Whether the 139,000 U.S. troops are drawn down, embed­ded or pulled out, the mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said, spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces will be in Iraq for a long time.

Study this

We have tapped the spe­cial-op­er­a­tions com­mu­nity and found some sour words for the Iraq Study Group’s 79 rec­om­men­da­tions for get­ting out of Iraq.

An Army Green Beret told us:

“TheIraqS­tudyGrouphas­taken a chap­ter out of our old play­book in Viet­nam known as “Viet­namiza­tion.” It pre­dictably failed then, as this will now. The Democrats and Repub­li­cans now have a pol­icy which will pro­tect their can­di­dates in fu­ture elec­tions. As a bi­par­ti­san doc­u­ment, it is a po­lit­i­cally mar­velousway­ofa­ban­don­ingIraqwith­out pay­ing the po­lit­i­cal price at home as the party that lost the war.

“Iraq will not be ca­pa­ble of field­ing a na­tional army ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity in three years, re­gard­less of how many ad­vis­ers we pro­vide. The sup­pos­edly se­cret ‘three cour­ses of ac­tion’ to ‘go big, go long, or go home’ have been dis­cussed for years at all lev­els. The only po­lit­i­cally vi­able so­lu­tion to sta­bi­liz­ing Iraq has al­ways been to ‘go long’ and dig in for a decade of na­tion build­ing. That course of ac­tion is con­tin­gent upon the will of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, how­ever, and the re­port rep­re­sents the be­lief that we have al­ready lost our will.

“There­port­pro­pos­esapo­lit­i­cally palat­able method of dis­en­gag­ing and go­ing home with­out pay­ing the full po­lit­i­cal price at home. The tragedy is that we chose to de­stroy that coun­try and are now choos­ing to leave it in ashes. It is shame­ful. When the ji­hadis arise from this de­ba­cle and once again bring ter­ror to Amer­i­can­soil,as­they­rose­fromthe de­feat of the Sovi­ets in Afghanistan and de­liv­ered us 9/11, we will have only our­selves to blame.”

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scar­bor­ough are Pen­tagon re­porters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at bgertz@wash­ing­ton­times.com. Mr. Scar­bor­ough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at rscar­bor­ough@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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