Thursday, August 11, 2005

U.S. Special Operations Command has drafted a war plan that sets up procedures for how its commandos will work with other regional commands across the globe to hunt for senior Islamic terrorists.

The complex plan from SoCom in Tampa, Fla., has been in the works since summer 2002, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a secret directive authorizing it. His memo directed SoCom to come up with a plan for dispatching special operations forces on quick notice to virtually any spot in the world to kill or capture terrorists.

The Washington Times learned of the developing plan this week from defense sources, who said it is encountering resistance from some regional headquarters that object to SoCom operating autonomously in their territory. The plan has yet to be presented to Mr. Rumsfeld.

The sources, who were guarded in discussing the plan, said one of its key statements is that SoCom will “synchronize” counterterror missions with other regional headquarters that the Pentagon calls “combatant commands.” These include Central Command, which is responsible for the Persian Gulf, and Pacific Command, which runs operations in Asia.

One source said the word describing the command-to-command relationship violates what many in the Pentagon want SoCom to do.

“Synchronize doesn’t mean ‘lead’ or ‘command,’ ” said the source, who asked not to be named.

Some of the commands also have said they can take on some of the duties SoCom is planning, such as strategic information operations, defense sources said.

The war-planning task is being handled by SoCom’s Center for Special Operations (CSO), led by Lt. Gen. Dell Dailey. Gen. Dailey is a hardened war fighter who once headed Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Fort Bragg, N.C., unit that specializes in hunting high-value enemy targets such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Defense sources said Gen. Dailey has been taking the secret plan to combatant commands and Pentagon officials before SoCom seeks approval from Mr. Rumsfeld.

“It’s the execution plan for SoCom’s lead role in the war on terror,” one defense source said. Approving a SoCom war plan would be a key piece of Mr. Rumsfeld’s overall strategy of defeating al Qaeda worldwide.

In early 2003, Mr. Rumsfeld elevated SoCom to a status equal to war-fighting commands, such as Central Command, which plan their own battles and executions. Until then, SoCom had only supported war-fighting commands. He also designated SoCom as the global command in the war on Islamic terrorists.

The Washington Times submitted questions to SoCom on the plan and concerns it could usurp some power from regional commands.

“U.S. SoCom does not discuss operational planning,” Col. Michael Zonfrelli, director of plans, policies and strategies at the CSO, wrote in an e-mail.

Col. Zonfrelli said the Pentagon’s 2004 Unified Command Plan, which sets out responsibilities for each combatant command, uses the word “synchronizing.”

“In military doctrine,” he said, “synchronizing is arranging military actions in time, space and purpose. U.S. SoCom has been working hard with the other combatant commanders implementing this new responsibility. The value of having a functional command like SoCom provide a global view and exercise a synchronizing role has been well received and supported by the combatant commanders, services and [Defense Department] agencies.”

The CSO has emerged as the nerve center for hunting high-value terrorist targets worldwide. It continually draws up contingency plans and constantly monitors the whereabouts and readiness of special commando units to evaluate whether they can execute what are called time-sensitive missions.

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