Test ban treaty sought
The Obama administration has launched a new effort to win ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, known as CTBT, which was voted down by the Senate in 1999.
The effort is being led by Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-control specialist at two think tanks until he became a national-security aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a staffer on the White House National Security Council in January.
Mr. Wolfsthal was making the rounds in the Senate on Wednesday, checking to see if the administration can drum up the 67 votes needed - a two-thirds majority - to ratify the treaty, which prevents underground nuclear tests.
Congressional and administration officials said the CTBT ratification effort is part of the administration’s new emphasis on reaching arms-control agreements. The officials said the intelligence community is working on a National Intelligence Estimate that the administration hopes will bolster ratification efforts, and a federal scientific study also is being done as part of the push. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record.
A White House spokesman had no immediate comment.
The treaty was rejected on a party-line 51-48 vote in the Senate on Oct. 13, 1999. Republicans opposed the treaty, saying the pact would undermine national security by encouraging nuclear proliferation and preventing the United States from ensuring the reliability of its nuclear stockpile.
Democrats favored the treaty as a needed arms-control agreement to prevent nuclear testing.
Republicans at the time did not have the 60 votes needed to kill the treaty. As a result, the pact was tabled in a procedure that allows it to be brought up again for a future vote.
President Obama said during the presidential campaign that he planned to seek CTBT ratification as a high priority.
The treaty was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996 but has not entered into force because nine states are needed to ratify it, including the United States and China.
The United States signed the treaty and has imposed a moratorium on nuclear testing.
However, a blue-ribbon commission set up by the Pentagon recently identified major flaws in the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal, which has called into question whether future testing of new nuclear weapons may be needed, according to sources familiar with the classified report.
The administration hopes to push through the CTBT ratification before seeking ratification of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
The 1991 START expired Dec. 5, and its several hundred pages of provisions were replaced temporarily by a 45-word joint U.S.-Russian statement saying both countries will continue to abide by its terms.
Pakistani government and military cooperation will be the key to the success of the Obama administration’s second surge strategy, according to a U.S. military officer in Afghanistan.
The officer provided Inside the Ring with an analysis of the strategy, announced last week by President Obama. It calls for the planned deployment of an additional 30,000 troops and sets a deadline to start pulling them out by July 2011.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized speak publicly.
“The rapid surge will present logistical challenges, a fact not lost on our enemies, who are likely to orient on our supply-chain vulnerabilities,” the officer said.
The officer said Pakistan’s security forces will be called on by the U.S. and its allies to play an important role in securing the force buildup. “That will be a metric of Pakistani political will to support this effort,” the officer said.
Another key element of mission success will be the response of the NATO allies to provide additional forces beyond the surge of 30,000 U.S. troops to round out the force initially sought by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the officer said.
“A fundamental center of gravity of this fight is not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan … and the al Qaeda safe havens,” the officer said.
SEALs in trouble
The purported planner of the 2004 Fallujah killings of four Blackwater security guards has been ordered held by an Iraqi judge, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports.
The Navy is prosecuting three SEAL special-operations commandos on allegations of punching detainee Ahmed Hashim Abed or lying about the incident when talking to investigators.
The military had steadfastly refused to officially release the detainee’s name to the news media. A spokeswoman for the special-operations unit of U.S. Central Command, which brought the charges, repeatedly declined to identify the detainee.
When the Navy last week finally released the official documents listing the charges, it blacked out Abed’s name.
However, in response to a query from Inside the Ring, Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, confirmed that Abed is in U.S. custody in Iraq “pursuant to an Iraqi judge’s judicial order.”
Gen. Lanza would not say whether Abed, who could be a key witness at the SEALs’ courts-martial, has been, or will be, charged. “All other questions must be addressed to the command responsible for the court-martial,” he said.
On Monday, as two of three SEALs were arraigned in a Norfolk military courtroom, the name Abed finally was uttered by the government.
Neal Puckett, attorney for Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, demanded that the government read the charges, which include the detainee’s name.
Petty Officer McCabe is accused of punching Abed in the gut and then lying about it. Two SEAL shipmates, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, are charged with giving false statements.
The case has triggered outrage by many pro-military advocates. Monday’s court appearance attracted more than 100 people outside the base to demonstrate in support of the three. They waved American flags and held signs of support, bringing horn honks from passing cars.
Petty Officer McCabe’s father, Marty McCabe of Las Vegas, expressed disgust over the charges.
“It just turns my stomach to have these people send him over there and put him in harm’s way, and then they don’t have his back when he gets home,” Mr. McCabe said, according to Associated Press.
“He’s been a hero - two tours of Iraq and one tour of Afghanistan - and now this is the thanks he gets,” Petty Officer Huertas’ civilian attorney, Monica Lombardi, said.
J. Michael Waller, a specialist on information warfare at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, said the charges against the SEALs are spurious and absurd.
“Al Qaeda has stated in a training manual, captured by the British, that its members, when captured, should allege that they were tortured,” Mr. Waller said. “Al Qaeda recognizes the propaganda value of such allegations as being vital to the success of its terrorist campaign.”
A fact sheet on the SEALs’ prosecution was made public by the U.S. Central Command’s Special Operations Command and states that “SOCCENT’s interest then and now is to ensure that the rule of law is followed and that our judicial process follows its course.” The command declined further comment, stating that the case remains under investigation.
The Dec. 4 fact sheet also states that the prisoner’s name would not be made public because of “the nature of the investigation.”
Mr. Waller said al Qaeda and other enemy forces rely on overzealous military prosecutors to make their propaganda for them and that prosecuting the SEALs based on a terrorist’s claims “serves no just purposes.”
“All it does is unwittingly aid and abet enemy propaganda,” he said. “This is not a My Lai massacre or Abu Ghraib atrocity. It makes one wonder whether U.S. military prosecutors are aware of how the enemy relies on them to spread their propaganda, and whether or not some of them even care.”
An FBI translation of the al Qaeda manual was posted on the Justice Department Web site, and the Pentagon publicized its contents in 2005. The translation states that “the closing chapter teaches al Qaeda operatives how to operate in a prison or detention center. It directs detainees to ‘insist on proving that torture was inflicted’ and to ‘complain of mistreatment while in prison.’ ”
Mr. Waller said that “this appears to be what is playing out here - a terrorist complained of mistreatment, and overzealous military prosecutors ran with the ball and prosecuted the SEALs.”
Gates on bin Laden
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a former CIA director, this week said he has not seen any good intelligence information on the location of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for “years.”
Asked about the hunt for bin Laden, now in its eighth year, a U.S. counterterrorism official said U.S. intelligence and military personnel have been waging “an intense and unwavering search” for the terrorist leader. “The effort to find him remains aggressive, and there’s absolutely no question that finding him remains a top priority for this government,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
On Sunday, Mr. Gates was asked when there was “good intelligence” on the terrorist mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: He replied: “I think it’s been years.”
Mr. Gates disputed a report that bin Laden had been spotted in Afghanistan, saying the claims have not been confirmed.
Jihadist Web sites monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies in recent months have carried reports that bin Laden is dead, but that also has not been confirmed.
Mr. Gates said the reason for the dearth of intelligence on bin Laden was not caused by a lack of cooperation from Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. “I think it’s because if, as we suspect, he is in North Waziristan, it is an area that the Pakistani government has not had a presence in in quite some time,” he said.
Then, on Dec. 7, Mr. Gates appeared on NBC’s “Today” show and said that in the three years he has been defense secretary, “I haven’t seen any” credible intelligence reports about bin Laden.
Asked why there has not been better intelligence on the al Qaeda leader, Mr. Gates again cited the lack of Pakistani government control in the remote tribal region “where he has the protection of local tribes, and it’s incredibly rough terrain.”
“And the truth of the matter is, somebody who is smart and who is cautious can elude people for many years,” Mr. Gates said. “I mean, look at the Unabomber in the United States. Seventeen years, or something, that guy eluded the FBI, and that was inside our own country. So if you have a lot of help, as [bin Laden] does, … you certainly are able to do that.”
In January, days before being sworn in as president, Barack Obama was asked by CBS News how important it was to get bin Laden, and he said his “preference obviously would be to capture or kill him.”
“I think that we have to so weaken his infrastructure that, whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function,” Mr. Obama said, noting that “if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America.”
U.S. officials have said bin Laden rarely communicates electronically, preferring more secure human couriers to contact al Qaeda leaders. His last public statement was an audiotape message released in September.
New Chinese cruise missile
China’s newest long-range strategic cruise missile is based on a Ukrainian cruise missile built for the Soviet Union and covertly transferred to China, according an Australian think tank.
The mobile DH-10 long-range cruise missile was first disclosed by Chinese Internet sites during practice for the Oct. 1 60th-anniversary military parade in Beijing, according to a report by Martin Andrew and Carlo Kopp posted in their Internet site Air Power Australia (www.ausairpower.net).
The missile, also known as the Chang Jian-10 or Long Sword-10, has been under development for years, and as of September 2009, 50 to 250 missiles had been deployed on 20 to 30 road-mobile triple-barreled launchers, the report says.
The new missile has an estimated range of 930 miles to 1,240 miles.
The report notes that the DH-10 is a land-based version of the Kh-55 air-launched cruise missile, several of which were transferred in 2000 from Ukraine to China; China was able to reverse-engineer the missile.
“The missile uses both GLONASS and GPS satellite systems for guidance, with four different types of warheads available; a heavy variant weighing 500 kilograms, and three, 350-kilogram variants: high explosive blast, submunition and earth penetrator,” the report says.
The authors stated that China’s development of three types of intermediate-range missiles - the DH-10, the C-602 long-range cruise missile and the satellite-guided DF-15D intermediate-range ballistic missile - is one reason Russia would like to scrap the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The INF treaty required the destruction of U.S. Pershing and Gryphon missiles and required Russia to scrap its SS-4, SS-5, SS-12, SS-23, SS-20 and SSC-X-4 missiles.
In February 2007, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin said the INF treaty no longer served Russian interests, and Russian military and foreign-policy officials said Moscow might unilaterally withdraw from the pact.