- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sandinista comeback

The Bush administration is increasingly alarmed at the resurgence of the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Ousted from power in a 1990 election, the left-wing, pro-Fidel Castro party has methodically crept back to the edge of regaining the presidency and the National Assembly. Sandinistas won the last round of local elections. Some U.S. officials believe they effectively control the assembly (although they are in the minority) by cutting deals with other parties.

The problem is, one official told us, the Sandinistas have never given up on their goal of promoting communist revolutions around Latin America.

This official says there are credible intelligence reports that Sandinista elements in the army have been shipping arms to Marxist, cocaine-producing terrorists in Colombia.

Staying put

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is happy to be staying at the Pentagon as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s No. 2. But he did have his eyes on another job, we are told.

Mr. Wolfowitz wanted to be President Bush’s next national security adviser, replacing Condoleezza Rice, who was confirmed Wednesday as secretary of state. But in the end, Mr. Bush kept the job in-house, picking Miss Rice’s deputy, Stephen Hadley.

Female combatants

The Army is making few advocates happy.

After a review, Army Secretary Francis Harvey sent a letter to Congress saying he was keeping the ban in place on women in land combat units. The prohibition covers support units that embed, or collocate, with combat units.

Elaine Donnelly, whose Center for Military Readiness opposes women in combat, charges that in practice the Army already might be violating the collocation rule within the 3rd Infantry Division, which is redeploying to Iraq.

Now, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, is weighing in on the other side.

“At this point, banning female soldiers from combat is just a game of semantics, but DoD needs to confront reality. Servicewomen are an indispensable part of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are carrying firearms. They are involved in the fighting and they have been killed in battle. In Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no longer a front line and a back line, away from combat,” Mrs. Maloney said. “This administration has again let out-of-date ideology impede opportunities for the military to make better use of servicewomen on the changing battlefield.”

Let’s talk

The Air Force, through “One Source,” has available a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week counseling service for airmen hard-pressed by the war on terror or any other stressful situation.

An Air Force message states: “Air Force One Source provides personalized consultation, referrals to military and community resources, online articles, educational materials (life articles, booklets, audio recordings), translations into 150 different languages, online workshops and customized research at no cost to Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve members and their families. Also, One Source respects your privacy.”

Covert action

With all the renewed talk in town about covert versus clandestine operations, we thought it was a good time for a refresher course.

The 1991 National Security Act created the process of a president signing a “finding,” which requires him to notify a select few congressional leaders about a covert operation. Congress required the process as a reform in response to the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra operations, for which Congress was kept in the dark.

A finding authorizes a covert (no U.S. acknowledgment) intelligence operation with the objective of influencing a country’s military, political or economic conditions. The CIA leads such covert operations, but may rely on others, such as special operations, to play a role. For example, in early 2002 President Bush signed a secret “finding” authorizing the CIA to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Findings, which are top-secret, normally are preceded by a robust interagency debate that produces a new strategy toward a particular country or region.

The 1991 act does not require a president to notify Congress for clandestine operations, such as collecting intelligence. But depending on the circumstances, for political reasons, an administration might want to inform lawmakers or certain committees.

A CIA director regularly briefs the intelligence committees behind closed doors on such operations.

A special operations team may be placed inside a country to collect intelligence, but not as a covert mission to change the political landscape. Thus, no finding. But in another instance, such a team may be paired with the CIA in a covert operation to destabilize a regime.

The special operations community includes a secret intelligence unit that penetrates countries under deep cover to intercept communications. But unless the mission is part of a broader strategy to influence a country’s regime, no finding is required.

Missile threats

We obtained a copy of the latest report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center on ballistic and cruise missile threats. The report concludes that the missile threat is growing “in number and variety.”

“The availability of weapons of mass destruction for use on ballistic missiles vastly increases the significance of this threat,” the report states.

The report notes that Russia, despite U.S. aid to reduce its nuclear arsenals, has or is building four new types of ICBMs, including 30 SS-27s that are deployed with “countermeasures to ballistic missile defense systems.”

Another new ICBM is in the works that will be deployed in both silos and road-mobile launchers, the report said.

Russia’s other new long-range missiles include two new submarine-launched ballistic missiles known as the SS-N-23 Sineva and the Bulava-30, which will be deployed in a new missile submarine known as the Dolgoruky class.

The report also notes that China is building up its long-range missile forces with two new ICBMs, the 4,500-mile range DF-31 and the 7,000-mile range DF-31A. “The number of warheads on Chinese ICBMs capable of threatening the United States is expected to expand to 75 to 100 over the next 15 years,” the report said.

The report also warns that work on North Korea’s ICBM, the Taepo-Dong-2, is continuing, and the missile “may be exported to other countries in the future.”

Iran’s missile program was described in the report as “ambitious” and includes the 800-mile range Shahab-3 and plans for two longer-range missiles, the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5.

“Iran could have an ICBM capable of reaching the United States before 2015,” the report said.

As for land-attack cruise missiles, the report states that the threat is growing, with at least nine nations building the ground-hugging, hard-to-detect systems.

Both China and Russia are building new cruise missiles that can be armed with nuclear or conventional warheads. “The majority of new [land-attack cruise missiles] will be very accurate, conventionally armed and available for export,” the report said. “U.S. defense systems could be severely stressed by low-flying, stealthy cruise missiles that can simultaneously attack a target from several different directions.”

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at bgertz@washingtontimes.com. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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