- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

The military's top special-operations general briefed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday on a new war plan that would authorize rapid-response American commandos to strike terrorists in foreign countries.
Mr. Rumsfeld is conveying "a sense of urgency" to commanders to track down al Qaeda terrorists and is looking to make counterterror operations "more adaptive more flexible faster," the defense secretary's spokeswoman said yesterday.
If approved, the new war plan would mark the first major shift in the 10-month-old war on terrorism as covert warriors take the strikes deep inside foreign countries at specific terrorist cells.
The Washington Times first reported on the emerging plan in yesterday's editions. The Times reported the hawkish defense secretary was impatient with the pace at which al Qaeda terrorists were being captured or killed, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.
Earlier this month, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a classified memo directing Gen. Charles R. Holland, who heads U.S. special operations, to devise a plan for striking terrorists using new tactics and lightning speed. Officials said the defense secretary wants such missions kept separate from civilian law enforcement operations, which are hampered by legal restrictions.
Administration officials also said Mr. Rumsfeld has authorized Special Operations Command for the first time to initiate some covert operations. Until now, operations were run by combat commanders who oversee specific regions, such as the U.S. Central Command, which is running the war in Afghanistan.
Officials said Mr. Rumsfeld is specifically unhappy with the slow pace of finding and eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban in Gen. Tommy Frank's theater. U.S. intelligence estimates from 500 to several thousand al Qaeda members and followers remain in the area planning attacks.
Two administration sources said Mr. Rumsfeld has authorized Gen. Holland to direct specific covert strikes, meaning he, not Gen. Franks, could be directing some operations inside Afghanistan or Pakistan. Officials told The Times some Rumsfeld advisers view the shift as somewhat of a rebuke of Gen. Franks.
Victoria Clarke, Mr. Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, was asked by a reporter yesterday if the secretary has lost confidence in Gen. Franks.
"The secretary has full and total confidence in Gen. Franks," Mrs. Clarke said. "He has done an extraordinary job of prosecuting what has been a very unconventional war and the secretary's very confident that the performance will be terrific going forward."
She confirmed that Gen. Holland met yesterday with Mr. Rumsfeld.
Asked about a specific new war plan, Mrs. Clark said, "Without going into any details, we're always looking for ways to be more adaptive, to be more flexible, to be faster, to be more lethal, to go after what is a very unconventional enemy. And so a lot of people, including Gen. Holland and Secretary Rumsfeld, the senior civilian and military leadership, will continue to try to produce exactly those sorts of plans."
Mr. Rumsfeld is said to believe the more time the al Qaeda is given to regroup, the more likely it is they will attack. He wants a plan from Gen. Holland that significantly steps up the pressure, using elite Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs to strike virtually any terrorist site around the world when intelligence gets a fix on a location.
"It is not a secret to you all, to all of us, the secretary wants everyone to understand the sense of urgency about what we're doing here, that the threats out there are very, very real," Mrs. Clarke said.
"Despite the success thus far in Afghanistan, we have a long way to go. So he is always communicating to everyone and to the senior military and civilian leadership the sense of urgency with which they should address all these matters."
Gen. Holland's plan is called the "first 30 percent" by some in the administration. That is because Mr. Rumsfeld wants the plan presented in stages so it can be put into operation quickly. President Bush is said to share Mr. Rumsfeld's view that the U.S. military must find and eliminate al Qaeda at a faster pace.
"Our Special Forces have been key to this operation from Day One," Brig. Gen. John Rosa, deputy director for current operations, told reporters at the Pentagon. "Special Forces have very special missions, and to sit and talk about planning in the future to use them, I think would be inappropriate."

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