- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pentagon for the first time admonished U.S. forces for not providing troops adequate intelligence resources to combat enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told U.S. and foreign air force student officers at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama yesterday that “it’s been like pulling teeth” when dealing with military officials. He also criticized the branches for not meeting the resource needs and not utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for hunting targets and collecting information.

Mr. Gates said the U.S. Air Force needs to move faster to meet the demand for unmanned vehicles.

“My concern is that our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield,” Mr. Gates said. “I’ve been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater.”

Currently, there are 5,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — a 25-fold increase since 2001 — said Mr. Gates, adding that although capacity has doubled in recent months, “it is still not good enough.” Many of the unmanned vehicles are equipped with full-motion video, a technology in demand for many of the American commanders on the ground trying to locate enemy combatants.

During his speech, Mr. Gates told student officers to think outside the box.

“An unconventional era of warfare requires unconventional thinkers,” Mr. Gates said. “For the kinds of challenges America will face, the armed forces will need principled, creative, reform-minded leaders.”

Mr. Gates said the Air Force “will be increasingly called upon to conduct civil-military or humanitarian operations.”

He added that partnering with civilians and working “directly with local populations” would require “foreign language and cultural expertise.”

Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick said the Air Force has increased operations and has 23 Combat Air Patrols “in the theater, seven days a week and 365 days a year” providing full-motion theater to the troops. Mr. Gulick added that the Air Force increased capabilities “two years faster than planned.”

“We’re doing everything we can to train pilots to be able to fly this system,” Mr. Gulick said.

U.S. military commanders, who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, said “cohesion” among military and political leaders is necessary to win against al Qaeda and other insurgency groups.

“If we don’t have a plan we can all agree with and if we don’t fight this together, it will only be a matter of time before al Qaeda regroups a cell to successfully plan another attack in the United States,” a military official said.

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