- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

The Pentagon is finishing work on its annual report to Congress on China’s military power, but with an unusual difference in the process this year: China’s military has sent two delegations to the U.S. to help draft it.

The Communist government in Beijing complains annually the report is too harsh but instead of telling them to get lost, senior Pentagon officials last year decided to let Chinese military officials have some input, especially on the contentious issue of China’s defense spending.

China has announced double-digit percentage increases in arms spending every year for nearly two decades. Past budgets and the latest spending plan announced earlier this month by Beijing, about $44 billion, do not include additional billions spent on such things as foreign weapons or on China’s space program, which is run entirely by the Chinese military. U.S. government and private estimates of Chinese defense spending are much higher. But because of China’s secrecy, they vary widely, from about $130 billion a year to as much as $200 billion annually.

Pentagon officials say Chinese complaints about the report are only one problem slowing the process. The other involves frequent objections from dovish State Department and pro-China U.S. intelligence officials intent on playing down the growing threat from China. So far non-Pentagon officials requested about 50 report changes in seeking to water it down. The report was expected March 1, but will not be finished for several weeks.

One example: A pro-China Defense Intelligence Agency analyst succeeded three years ago in deleting from the report new intelligence on a secret range-extension program for China’s long-range nuclear missiles. The analysts saw to it that the report left out details, including a map, showing that the threat posed by the missiles had increased dramatically by boosting the range of China’s 20 to 30 DF-5A missiles so that their 3-megaton warheads now target 200 million Americans over most of the United States. Before the 2002-2004 upgrade, Chinese nuclear missiles could target only about 50 million Americans in Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast.

McCaffrey speaks

Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, now a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has offered a no-nonsense and surprisingly upbeat assessment of the war in Afghanistan.

Gen. McCaffrey shared his observations with colleagues after an eight-day visit last month to Afghanistan that included meetings with military and civilian officials in the region. His bottom line: After not putting enough resources into the fight against Taliban and al Qaeda, things are going well.

“The Afghan economy is booming at 12 percent growth rate a year. Fourteen billion [dollars] has been spent on aid since 2001. Six TV channels and a hundred free, uncensored publications are available to the people. Literacy is increasing rapidly. The ring road is now two-thirds complete. The 40,000 soldiers of the [Afghan National Army] are growing rapidly in numbers and capability. There are 45,000 NATO and U.S. troops in country. There is a functioning democracy with an elected Parliament, and a serious, dedicated Afghan president in office. Afghanistan can be a strategic victory in the struggle against terrorism. We are now on the right path.”

Gen. McCaffrey noted that special operations forces in country, both regular and deep-cover commandos, are the key “strategic tool” in battling al Qaeda and Taliban but “by themselves cannot win the nation’s wars.”

These “strategic assets,” however, are being killed, wounded and injured at very high rates, he said.

The air-ground-sea special operations forces are extremely effective and “can locate and kill or capture terrorist groups operating in a covert manner in both urban and rural terrain while minimizing impact on innocent populations,” he said. “These are the most dangerous people on the face of the Earth.”

One major problem: drugs, the former U.S. government drug czar said.

Afghanistan is now a narco-state,” Gen. McCaffrey said. “The opium-heroin take is $3.1 billion which is one-third of the [gross national product].”

Currently, British-led anti-drug efforts lack support and there is no single unifying leadership for U.S. or international efforts, he stated.

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