China-al Qaeda nexus
China continued to supply arms to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist even after the group began the September 11 attack on America, says a senior U.S. official.
The official said that a week after the terrorist attack, the ruling Taliban and the al Qaeda fighters embedded among them, received a shipment of Chinese-made SA-7 missiles. The shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons are similar to the U.S. Stinger.
This official says the shipment raises serious questions about Beijing’s pledge to help fight terrorism.
We already know the Taliban and al Qaeda got sizable arms shipments from China, which borders Afghanistan on the north. Opposition forces found huge amounts of Chinese ammunition in the caves of Tora Bora. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says Chinese have been found fighting among al Qaeda.
Earlier this week, Mr. Rumsfeld said eastern alliance forces near Tora Bora made another China-related discovery. “They also interestingly seem to have captured a good deal of Chinese ammunition,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
One U.S. official said the Chinese ammunition may have been left over from the 1980s, when Beijing, along with the United States, was a major supplier of the anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing said Tuesday he had “no idea” what Mr. Rumsfeld was referring to in mentioning the large quantities of Chinese ammunition found in al Qaeda caves.
Asked if China had sold weaponry to Afghanistan or neighboring nations, the spokesman said, “the United Nations once adopted the resolution on weapon embargo against Afghanistan, and China has acted according to the Security Council resolutions.”
China tests M-11
China’s military is improving the accuracy of its newest short-range ballistic missile, the CSS-7. U.S. intelligence agencies detected a flight test of a CSS-7 earlier this week from a test facility in northwest China.
“There was a missile launch of a CSS-7,” said a U.S. official familiar with reports of the test at the Shuang Chengzi missile center in Gansu province, northwest of Lanzhou. “This is part of a continuing series of tests they are conducting to improve the accuracy of the missile.”
China has deployed about 350 short-range missiles opposite Taiwan and is building up to a force of about 600 missiles over the next several years.
The missiles are a mix of both CSS-7 and CSS-6 missiles. The CSS-7 is also known as the M-11, and defense officials say the current force is being improved with Mod 2 versions that are more lethal in targeting Taiwan.
Officials said the flight test is believed to be one of the Mod 2 versions of the missile.
Navy sources tell us it’s not the worst carrier inspection report they’ve ever seen. But at this time in history, with the USS John F. Kennedy the next carrier to enter the war on terrorism, the sources were amazed the ship was in such bad shape.
“The ship was seriously degraded in her ability to conduct air operations,” said a report by a Navy Board of Inspection and Survey of the Dec. 3-7 inspection. “Three of four aircraft elevators were out of commission, two of four catapults were degraded, and the overall flight deck firefighting capability was seriously degraded. These major system degradations were in addition to a significant number of deficiencies noted in the fueling system. “
Then there was the question of the ship’s two power plants.
“The propulsion plant was evaluated to be extremely unreliable and determined to be routinely operated out of safe parameters and in non-standard configuration,” said the report, a copy of which we obtained. “Two shaft seals had unacceptable leakage rates.”
“Topside corrosion, including the condition of the mast, superstructure and catwalks, was the worst observed in three years.”
The report accused the commanders of “complacency with a massive number of seemingly obvious electrical safety deficiencies.”
“It is my finding,” a senior inspector wrote, “that USS John F. Kennedy could not prudently demonstrate safe and reliable underway operations.”
And in a parting shot, the inspector said the crew could not be counted on to conduct “an accurate self-assessment numerous critical systems, reported as fully operational, were demonstrated with safety features bypassed.”
The Navy took immediate action, firing the carrier’s commanding officer, Capt. Maurice Joyce. “It was a bad day for the Big John and she burped,” he told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla, the ship’s home port. “The week before, she was glorious.”
The Kennedy is due to depart for Puerto Rico next month for crew training, and then head for the Mediterranean in early spring. Iraq or Somalia could be in her sights.
It is the lone sour note in an otherwise excellent performance by Navy air during the war against terror and the campaign in Afghanistan. Navy planes have carried out the bulk of tactical missions, while evading enemy fire and scoring few bombing miscues.
A U.S. Central Command investigation into the bombing of Red Cross warehouses in October has found that the facilities were not marked and that the humanitarian agency never gave the coordinates of the facility to the U.S. military, as it claimed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement two days after U.S. warplanes inadvertently bombed two Red Cross warehouses in Kabul on Oct. 25.
The Geneva-based ICRC “deplored” the bombing and claimed in its statement that the warehouses, which had been used by Taliban forces, were marked with large, nine-foot by nine-foot red crosses on white backgrounds that were “clearly displayed” on each roof.
It also said that bombing such marked buildings was “a violation of international humanitarian law.”
The ICRC also said it had informed the U.S. military of the exact location of its warehouses after an earlier bombing on Oct. 16.
However, the Central Command investigation found that the ICRC was wrong, we are told by a defense official.
“Centcom did an investigation and found that the ICRC never gave us the coordinates and that the buildings were located in an industrial complex and that none of the buildings were marked,” the official said.
Most senior administration officials in recent weeks voiced a belief that Osama bin Laden was holed up in the Tora Bora region all except Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said, “In the hunt up there, we think we know in general where he is. Can’t be sure, but we think we know.”
Vice President Richard B. Cheney, asked last week if bin Laden was in Tora Bora, answered, “In that general area.”
“A few days ago, we believed he was in that area,” Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters on Monday. “Now we’re not sure.”
But Mr. Rumsfeld steadfastly has refused to say he believed the terrorist was around Tora Bora possibly to fend off any subsequent charge that the U.S. military let him slip away. Asked this week if bin Laden had left Tora Bora, Mr. Rumsfeld answered, “That presumes he was there. Since we did not know that with precision, and we don’t know if he is there now, it would be difficult to answer that question.”
Correction: We misstated last week the number of grave sites each acre allows at Arlington National Cemetery. It is 600 grave sites.
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.