- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

Prime target
One of the B-52 bombers that struck targets in Afghanistan laid waste to a building related to the Taliban militia, we are told. The B-52, flying out of the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia, dropped a total of 108 500-pound gravity bombs on a single structure near Kabul. The bombs destroyed the building, said Pentagon officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials said U.S. and allied military forces completed bombing runs on all the predetermined targets selected by Pentagon war planners. The bombing runs are shifting toward hitting new targets that require pinpoint accuracy and rapid reaction. The list includes groups of terrorists who try to move from one place in Afghanistan to another.

Kudos for 'Rummy'
Some of the same uniformed personnel who privately belittle a peacetime Donald H. Rumsfeld are now praising him as a wartime defense secretary.
The officers say he has given Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who commands the current operation in Afghanistan, enough freedom to hit the right targets and bring about the fall of the ruling Taliban militia and terrorist Osama bin Laden. The officers say Mr. Rumsfeld has even made a few suggestions about how to carry out the bombing that turned out to work.
"They're picking off the Taliban, troop by troop," said one officer. "The plan is going very well."
"It's been Rumsfeld's finest hour," he added. "I'm not talking about the budget, I'm talking about the war. We're seeing the positive side of him."
Mr. Rumsfeld privately has been widely criticized within the Pentagon officer corps for the way he has gone about writing the new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). His staff pushed the military services to offer up force structure cuts, creating a near-mutiny. The revolt finally ended when Mr. Rumsfeld decided to leave the services at their current strengths.

Pakistan's nukes
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching several nuclear weapons facilities inside Pakistan. There are fears that Islamic extremists will try to attack or seize Pakistan's small nuclear weapons arsenal in retaliation for the U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan.
U.S. intelligence reports before the start of raids that began Sunday indicated Pakistan's military was beefing up security at the nuclear facilities and one report stated that Pakistan had moved surface-to-air missiles to one site.
Pakistan has several known nuclear weapons laboratories and storage sites, in addition to its nuclear test site.
U.S. intelligence officials said the demonstrations and unrest in Pakistan so far have not appeared to threaten the stability of the regime of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. Officials said Gen. Musharraf has managed to stave off serious threats to his government by paying off Muslim clerics and imprisoning others. He recently reshuffled his national security aides in an effort to eliminate officials sympathetic to Islamic terrorists.
Meanwhile, Chinese workers helping to build the nuclear power plant at Chasma left Pakistan last week in anticipation of U.S. bombing raids on Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials.

Tomahawk shortage
President Bush endorsed during the campaign the idea of converting four Trident ballistic-missile submarines into cruise-missile platforms. It was seen as a symbol of Mr. Bush's bigger plan to transform a Cold War force into a futuristic one.
But what seemed like a relatively simple idea is making senior Navy leaders more and more unhappy.
We've obtained internal Navy estimates that the entire conversion project is now estimated to cost at least $4 billion. The inflation comes as the Navy is searching for added shipbuilding money to keep the "incredibly shrinking fleet" from dipping below 300 ships.
What's more, buying Tomahawk cruise missiles for the redesigned Trident subs comes at a time when carrier battle groups leave port with less than their full allotment of the highly accurate weapon. The Navy's Tomahawk inventory dwindled during a series of military strikes in the 1990s.
A Navy source tells us that carrier battle groups, such as the two now engaged in air strikes on Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban, deploy with 75 percent of Tomahawk capacity.
Said one Navy source, summing up the problem, "Battle group commanders want the flexibility provided by distributing Tomahawks among many platforms."
The allocation of Navy shipbuilding money has always been as much political as it is practical. In this case, Trident work will likely be done by General Dynamics' Electric Boat facility in Connecticut. Not surprisingly, the program is being pushed by the state's two Democratic senators, Joseph I. Lieberman and Christopher J. Dodd.
The White House asked Congress to provide $116.4 million in fiscal 2002 to begin converting the first two Tridents from SSBNs to a new designation, SSGNs. But that wasn't fast enough for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which approved a bill adding $324 million.
Here's how the $4 billion breaks down roughly: In addition to the congressional money, the Navy will need $2.7 billion for the conversions, $700 million to buy the additional Tomahawks and $600 million to man and operate the four SSGNs initially.
"The Navy does not believe that a Trident SSGN could perform all of the missions assigned to attack submarines," the committee's 2002 report says. "Nevertheless, the committee believes that having the four Trident SSGNs available would provide the Navy more flexibility in scheduling operations of the rest of the [attack sub] fleet."

Short takes
* Observations from a military officer who watched President Bush's visit to the Pentagon shortly after a hijacked airliner slammed into the south-facing section of the five-sided building:
"President Bush was walking around shaking hands and thanking all of us for what we do. He kept saying to people 'Don't Worry' as if to say, I've got it under control. He must have shaken 1,000 hands or more. What particularly struck me was his presence not a particularly large man in stature, but he had an aura of a giant a smile on his face, yet you can sense he was a man on a mission a man of purpose and conviction there was just this feeling that he is THE MAN, and he is in charge he had a quiet confidence that was deafening!"
* An administration official tells us that "mechanical failure" caused a U.S. Predator spy drone to crash while flying over Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attack. The source said the plane flew above the range of anti-aircraft artillery and there is no evidence that a surface-to-air missile downed it.
The U.S. is launching flights over Afghanistan to scout out bombing targets and to find master terrorist Osama bin Laden. The Predator sends back "real time" video via a satellite link.
* The Pentagon dubbed them Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), vacuum-packed morsels of peanut butter, cookies, entrees and powdered coffee that get, at best, mixed reviews.
Then came Humanitarian Daily Ration (HDR), the vacuum-packed, meat-free meals being air-dropped for starving Afghans.
Asked to assess the HDRs, a senior administration official told us, "They're like MREs without the taste."
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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