- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Spy in the sky

China’s first manned spacecraft did more than simply showcase Beijing’s efforts for civilian space flight. The Shenzhou 5, or Divine Vessel 5, spacecraft also conducted intelligence-gathering work for China’s military.

Included on the top of the Long March 2F rocket, which boosted Shenzhou into orbit Tuesday, was a new Chinese military intelligence-gathering satellite. The satellite was placed in orbit successfully shortly after the Shenzhou began its 14-orbit mission. No mention of the satellite launch was made in the state-run Chinese press.

Additionally, defense officials said the single-astronaut spacecraft carried an infrared camera that conducted photographic spying. The camera was mounted outside the craft and has a resolution of 1.6 meters, meaning something as small as 5 feet wide can be distinguished.

The space spying highlights China’s plans to use space for military purposes, primarily to develop missiles and sensors, and to blind or cripple U.S. communications and intelligence systems in any conflict over Taiwan.

Lt. Col. Mark Stokes, director of the Taiwan desk at the Pentagon, said in a speech Sept. 30 that China’s space program is closely linked to the Chinese military.

China’s “space assets will play a major role in any use of force against Taiwan and in preventing foreign intervention,” Col. Stokes said. It is working to develop networks of satellites that will be used for spying and communications for the military, he said.

China also has shown “significant indications” of developing space weapons, such as satellite-killing missiles and satellites and lasers that can disable U.S. military and intelligence satellites, he said.

The Long March rocket booster also benefited from illegal U.S.-technology transfers in the 1990s, when U.S. satellite companies helped China fix electrical problems with the boosters. The booster improvements also benefited Chinese strategic missiles, which are made by the same Chinese manufacturers of the Long March rocket.

Commander sidelined

The commander of the 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, stepped down earlier this month because of an urgent medical condition.

Gen. Vines signed off with a note to his troops that he is leaving Afghanistan “on short notice, and with troops in contact, [and] you are entitled to know why.”

A recent physical exam found a tumor and the three-star general is having it treated.

“The initial diagnosis is that I will be sore for a few weeks and return to full duty, so reports of my demise are premature,” Gen. Vines wrote. “Do not therefore ask for my sheath knife or truck.”

His relief is Army Brig. Gen. Lloyd Austin, who Gen. Vines noted is “the man I would personally choose to lead my sons in combat.”

In Afghanistan, “we have incredible soldiers and airmen daily confronting some of the most evil people on the planet,” Gen. Vines said.

“They are an inspiration to me, and to flinch at a few mutant cells in the face of their courage would be cowardice.

“It has been my highest honor to serve you,” he said. “We will press the fight until the hour I depart the [joint operations area] because, in the words of a leaf-eating nongovernmental organization representative, ‘There are still a lot of people who need to be killed.’ Remain focused.” The note is signed “Vines, Warlord 6, Afghanistan.”

A Central Command spokesman confirmed that Gen. Vines is on medical leave.

Terrorist team

A source in Iraq tells us that evidence points to a team affair in last weekend’s car bombing at the Baghdad hotel.

The front rotor of the bomber’s car landed in the hotel lobby. It appears to be from the type of auto used by Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen, the gestapo of Iraq. Other pieces of evidence point to the homicide bomber being a foreign terrorist. But no final determination has been made.

Minutes after the explosion, the scene was crawling with special operations troops ready to shoot any terrorist on sight. Local Iraqis are telling intelligence officers that another car bombing is planned soon.

Hazardous trade-off

It’s a dilemma for L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq.

If his people venture out to meet with Iraqi officials impromptu, the contacts would improve relations between the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the average citizen adjusting to the occupation. But such visits might make CPA civilians sitting ducks for Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists.

So, officials tell us, Mr. Bremer has chosen Plan B. He sends his staff out only under heavy military guard to well-orchestrated events.

To some in the administration, what the CPA needs is a cadre of 50 or so Arab-speaking case officers from the State Department. These specialists could work closely with Iraqi politicians and business people, and find out who you can trust and who you can’t.

Frequent fliers

Amid all the Democratic and press criticism of U.S. operations in Iraq, no one can deny that one mission is turning out successfully.

The Pentagon has arranged congressional delegations for more than 100 lawmakers, Republican and Democratic. To a person, the members return to Washington saying three things: The troops are performing splendidly; the Iraqis want the Americans to stay; and reconstruction is progressing much better than press reports indicate.

Meanwhile, some in the Pentagon are amused by the latest Gallup poll, a door-to-door survey of Baghdad residents who by a huge margin want U.S. troops to stay in their country for a while. The comment in the Pentagon is that polls show more Iraqis than Americans support the war to oust Saddam Hussein.

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

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