- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

Mission possible
America's first ground combat action into Afghanistan was a combination diversion-intelligence operation that enabled the Pentagon to gauge the Taliban's response time, senior U.S. officials tell us.
The Pentagon has draped much of the Oct. 19 mission in secrecy. But we've picked up a few details.
About 100 Army Rangers parachuted near an airfield south of Kandahar, then secured the facility, killing about 20 Taliban militia.
The seizing of the airport acted as a diversion for a team of Army Delta Force commandos who rode low-flying Black Hawk helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to a compound once occupied by Mullah Mohammed Omar, supreme Taliban leader, in Kandahar.
While the super-secret Delta Force team met little resistance and scooped up documents, the Taliban dispatched scores of fighters to battle the Rangers. It took the reinforcements 45 minutes to reach the airport. By that time, the Rangers had been picked up by C-130 aircraft and taken to safety. The Delta Force team then exited the way it got in via the quiet, tree-hugging Black Hawks.
One Army officer told us, "I'd guess that this was something of a confidence target. Definitely sends a message to the bad guys. We can come in at any time, any place, and kill you in your own houses. Going into the Mullah Omar's house on the first raid definitely lets them know that nothing is off limits. Overall I'd say they were pretty successful. I imagine that the [after action report] went pretty well. I'm sure that there were some 'needs improvement' comments but there always are."

China tests JL-2
China's military is moving ahead with its major strategic nuclear forces buildup. U.S. intelligence officials said the latest element was a test of the new JL-2, a submarine-launched version of the DF-31 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.
U.S. intelligence monitors in Asia spotted a "pop-up" test of the JL-2 from a specially modified Chinese Golf-class diesel submarine. The test simulated the first step in a submarine-launched ballistic missile firing, ejecting the missile from its tube. In an actual launch, the missile's engine would be ignited after clearing the tube.
The test took place two weeks ago in an area off the coast of north-central China, the officials said.
The JL stands for Julang or "Great Wave," and the missile has a range of about 5,000 miles. It will be deployed aboard China's newest ballistic missile submarine, known as the Type 094. Deployment is expected in the next several years. The missile will probably incorporate U.S. missile and warhead technology that was obtained by China through espionage, and legal and illegal technology transfers.
"As we risk our lives saving the world and China from terrorism, China still finds the resources to build new missiles to be aimed at us," said Richard Fisher, a China specialist with the Jamestown Foundation. "Let's be clear, the JL-2 will be targeted at Los Angeles, not bin Laden."

Terror-warning details
The recent terrorist warning about an impending attack by al Qaeda extremists was based on an increase in chatter among Islamic radicals around the world. Information was supplied to U.S. intelligence agencies that a catastrophic attack was set to occur around Oct. 29 or 30, or several days before or after those dates.
Intelligence sources told us the warning, which has generated some controversy over whether it should have been publicly announced by the Bush administration, was based on analysis of similar discussions that were found to have taken place around the time of the September 11 attacks.

Direct action
Within weeks, or days, perhaps, special operations forces (SOF) will begin what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said will be a "sustained" campaign to destroy Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network and their protectors, the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan.
If you want a description of how such operations will be run, check out the official U.S. Special Operations Command doctrine, under the category of "direct action."
It defines direct action as "short duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions by SOF to seize, destroy, capture, recover or inflict damage on designated personnel or material in denied areas. In the conduct of these operations, SOF may employ raid, ambush, or direct assault tactics; emplace mines and other munitions; conduct standoff attacks by fire from air, ground or maritime platforms; provide terminal guidance for precision-guided munitions; conduct independent sabotage; and conduct anti-ship operations."

Anthrax threat
U.S. intelligence officials tell us the Pentagon recently conducted an exercise to gauge the destructive power of a biological weapons attack.
The target was Los Angeles, and the simulation involved the detonation of an anthrax bomb over the Los Angeles harbor with a warhead containing 2,000 grams of anthrax.
The spores were dispersed at a certain altitude into a 20 mile-per-hour wind flowing west to east.
The simulated bomb also contained true weaponized anthrax the kind that is genetically engineered to be completely resistant to all types of antibiotics. The type of anthrax found in recent terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, by contrast, was not resistant to antibiotics.
The results were catastrophic. Intelligence officials estimated that two hours after the explosion, as many as 880,000 Angelenos would die and another 1.3 million people would be exposed from this weapon of mass destruction.

The Navy remembers
A father wrote to the Navy asking them to remember his daughter, Colleen Ann Meehan Barkow, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11.
The Navy did.
The crew of the carrier Carl Vinson wrote her name on a laser-guided bomb before it scored a bull's-eye on an enemy target in Afghanistan.
The ship's public affairs officer, Lt. Matt O'Neal, e-mailed the father a note and a picture of the signed ordnance.
"If there's any way you can see through your pain, please know that America's heroes, all your sons and daughters, are out here doing our part to preserve our ideals and way of life," Lt. O'Neal wrote. "You needn't have to ask us to remember. We will remember them always. The attached is a photo of a laser guided bomb dropped over an undisclosed Taliban target over southern Afghanistan on Oct. 11, 2002."
Lt. O'Neal told us in an e-mail, "I received the email request from Mr. Meehan [Colleens father]. One of my friends wrote her name on a bomb and we snapped a quick picture."

The soda front
Cultural misunderstandings can start wars, or lead to civilian casualties.
U.S. planes are dropping yellow food packets on Afghanistan to relieve famine. But unexploded U.S. cluster bomblets are also colored yellow. So the Defense Department is dropping leaflets in Afghan languages Pashtu and Dari to warn people not to touch the yellow objects "shaped like a can," which are the cluster bombs.
The problem is that many Afghans have never seen a tin can. On one reporter's travels with mujahideen guerrillas during the 1980s Afghan-Soviet War, a can of soda water was viewed as a strange object. The fighters, offered a drink, had also never tasted a carbonated drink.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has changed the covering of the food packet from yellow to blue.

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at [email protected] Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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