- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

A new Pentagon counterterrorism plan calls for making arrangements with some foreign countries to allow U.S. commandos on their soil to attack terrorist cells.
Two senior U.S. officials with knowledge about the planning say Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants such procedures in place so special operations forces can act on intelligence in hours, not days or weeks.
The sources said it is too early to predict whether such agreements can be worked out with all nations where al Qaeda cells exist.
Senior defense officials also want such clandestine missions deemed acts of war so they stay outside the control of civilian law enforcement, the officials said.
Mr. Rumsfeld last month ordered his top special operations officer, Gen. Charles R. Holland, to devise a new, more aggressive war plan to capture or kill al Qaeda terrorists around the world. Officials said the plan will rely heavily on the military's most elite counterterrorism units: Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs.
Gen. Holland on Friday came to the Pentagon to brief Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior defense officials on the first third of his evolving war plan.
The set of country-by-country agreements is just one part of what officials say is a more aggressive war plan to find, interrogate and if necessary kill global terrorists. The plan shifts more war planning responsibility to Gen. Holland's shop, U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
The Washington Times first reported on the new war plan last week. Officials told The Times that Mr. Rumsfeld was impatient at the pace at which al Qaeda members were being captured or killed, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, and wants a new plan of action.
Victoria Clarke, his spokeswoman, told reporters: "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 General Holland and Secretary Rumsfeld, the senior civilian and military leadership, will continue to try to produce exactly those sorts of plans."
A senior administration official said, "Rumsfeld believes we are not moving fast enough. He sometimes questions whether commanders are always 'leaning forward.'"
In the war on terrorism, even some staunch U.S. allies have balked at allowing American forces to fight on their soil. For example, the United States has sent hundreds of soldiers to the Philippines to aid Manila's battle against the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. But those U.S. soldiers, although they are armed and authorized to fire in self-defense, are officially there as advisers to the Philippine armed forces, and Manila has said it does not want American fighting units.
In addition to country agreements, officials say the plan will also set up procedures to infiltrate some areas without permission.
Dubbed "the first 30 percent" inside the administration, Gen. Holland's plan will also set up procedures for deploying forces without the usual bureaucratic red tape. If an intelligence source identifies a wanted terrorist leader, a Delta Force unit could move out immediately and be on target in hours, officials said.
The plan also sets up a program to screen Defense Department personnel to find those with language skills that could be helpful in covert operations, according to officials.
Although the main target is al Qaeda, the group that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, the plan does not limit attacks to just one group.
One official said that if, for example, a Middle East terrorist group is found responsible for killing Americans, the military could be dispatched to find or eliminate them.
Said one military officer with ties to the special operations community, "We will be operating with very little interference from above. I can't go into details, but there will be more emphasis on some of the low-profile skills that we are famous infamous for."

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