- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

The air-ground campaign against Iraq centered on removing Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party regime, “not annihilation of enemy army,” said the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman in a private briefing.

Gen. Richard B. Myers also said in the closed-door briefing at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., last month that terror network al Qaeda remains “very active” 21 months after the September 11 attacks.

The strategy of not trying to wipe out the Iraqi military was criticized privately by some officers who were told about the Myers briefing.

They said Republican Guard soldiers who were allowed to leave the battlefield are among some of those waging a deadly guerrilla hit-and-run operation against U.S. soldiers in and around Baghdad.

Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s network, is “dispersed, decentralized and active,” Gen. Myers said in the 18-page briefing to Naval War College officers.

He called the terror operatives “adaptive, shrewd and patient” and said they were exploiting with increasing skill the world’s “$3 trillion global communications network.” This, Pentagon officials said, referred to the worldwide network of satellites, telecommunications and the Internet.

A military officer said that the more U.S. intelligence agencies analyze al Qaeda’s operating procedures, the more impressed they are with its ability to use satellite communications to keep the network connected.

“They have good access to satellite phones,” the officer said. “We can intercept them. We hear them talking. But it’s hard to figure out” exactly what they are talking about.

That is why the Bush administration hears “chatter” appearing to signal that an attack is in the planning stages or is imminent, but does not always know specifics, such as time and location.

The officer said al Qaeda operatives talk in a primitive code. Certain words stand for specific instructions. The National Security Agency, the nation’s electronic-monitoring agency, is skilled at matching phone numbers to al Qaeda operators and supporters. But the terror organization often changes numbers and phones.

In Afghanistan, U.S. troops found buried caches of new satellite and adaptable cell phones. The assumption is that al Qaeda has many more.

Gen. Myers’ assessment of the war on terrorism also contains an analysis of the U.S.-led coalition’s monthlong air-and-ground campaign to seize Baghdad and topple Saddam’s regime.

The Myers briefing drew a distinction between Operation Desert Storm’s “sequenced, sectored and segregated campaign” in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the simultaneous ground-air war that started this March 19. He calls the latter a “more flexible, adaptable and agile campaign.”

The nation’s top military officer made other comparisons between the two campaigns:

• One in five jet fighters could launch laser-guided bombs in Desert Storm, compared with all aircraft in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

• One in 20 bombs were laser directed then; three out of five had that capability in Iraqi Freedom.

• The M109 artillery piece took eight minutes to set up; in this campaign, the Army’s Paladin self-propelled howitzer took 30 seconds.

• The Navy Tomahawk cruise missile was limited to a 500-mile-plus range in 1991, with two to three days needed to program the target location for its terrain-following guidance system. In the war this year, the range exceeded 1,000 miles, and each missile could be programmed in hours as intelligence agencies located new targets.

cIt took two days in Desert Storm to get commanders an intelligence photograph and target geographic coordinates. In Iraqi Freedom, photos were available immediately from satellites and various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

• Field commanders had one type of UAV in 1991; 10 were available in this war, ranging from a small, hand-held drone to the long-flying Global Hawk.

• Desert Storm commanders had to fly out 800 pages of “air tasking orders” to aircraft carriers daily. This time, the Combined Air Operations Center in Saudi Arabia sent out orders that were “instantly available to all units” through a secure Internet connection.

• Commanders were limited to secure telephone communications 12 years ago. In this war, officers used secure video teleconferences right down to the commander in a Humvee.

Gen. Myers also said precision bombings allowed for “fewer but more effective forces.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, kept the initial invasion ground force at less than 100,000, relying on speed, intelligence information and precision bombs to make up the difference.

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