Combatant commanders such as Army Gen. John Abizaid of U.S. Central Command normally serve two-year terms before moving to a new post or retiring. Gen. Abizaid completed his two years last month.
But don’t look for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to name a replacement soon. Mr. Rumsfeld is described as extremely happy with Gen. Abizaid’s performance in supervising two major conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan, the epicenters in the U.S. war on Islamic terrorists.
“Nobody is contemplating Abizaid doing something else any time soon,” said a senior defense official.
Gen. Abizaid’s deputy commander is Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith, a career fighter pilot. Gen. Smith reaches the two-year point at Central Command in October. He is rumored to be in the running for several jobs, including commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, which is spearheading military transformation.
That post was left vacant by Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, who was sworn in earlier this month as Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman. He replaced Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who is the chairman-in-waiting.
CIA Director Porter J. Goss is pushing hard at the agency to make progress in reforming the Directorate of Operations (DO), the agency’s espionage branch.
Bureaucrats within the directorate and elsewhere are quietly opposing the reform efforts that seek to improve much-needed U.S. human spying operations.
The reforms being put in place include adding better people and training, and trying to undo the overly bureaucratic mind-set within the DO that has resulted in numerous intelligence failures, CIA officials tell us.
The officials said that in addition to some agency bureaucrats, opposition to Mr. Goss and his key advisers at CIA also is coming from within the new office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), specifically former DO officers David Shedd and Mary Margaret Graham.
Both are viewed by pro-reform officials as bureaucratic protectors for the status quo within the DO.
Mr. Shedd is the chief of staff for DNI John Negroponte. Mr. Shedd wields wide influence within the intelligence system, including the DO. Miss Graham, who left the DO under a cloud when she became the DNI’s deputy director for operations, is nominally in charge of all U.S. intelligence operations, and has been fighting Mr. Goss’ reform efforts covertly, the officials said.
CIA sources tell us Mr. Shedd has told associates that he ultimately plans to replace Mr. Goss, a CIA director, and as part of the package, he will bring Miss Graham back to the CIA as deputy director of operations.
As one official put it, “If that happens, U.S. intelligence will be finished” as far as any meaningful improvements in human spying are concerned.
Fixing CIA’s analysis system will be an even bigger challenge for Mr. Goss. One official told us the problem is highlighted by the agency’s weak analysis on China, despite efforts to improve it. At CIA “they think the biggest threat from China is bird flu,” said one official who is critical of the agency.
The Pentagon is getting rid of a small number of cups, plates and other dinnerware bearing the flag of the secretary of defense.
The dinnerware will be auctioned off later this month by the company Government Liquidation, which handles sales of surplus goods for the Defense Department.
Among the 13 lots being auctioned are numerous coffee cups (no saucers), salad plates and dinner plates with the blue flag logo.
The company also is auctioning off 9,600 medals that were ordered by President Carter to be awarded by the military services for refugee assistance. U.S. military personnel disparaged the medals.
Kasymzhomart Tokayev, the foreign minister of Kazakhstan, said his government has not ruled out the lease of U.S. military bases in that strategically located Central Asian nation.
Mr. Tokayev visited Washington this week for talks with U.S. officials. In a meeting with reporters and editors of The Washington Times, he said there had been no formal request for the United States to put military bases in Kazakhstan.
The Astana government, however, has been supporting U.S. military operations in Afghanistan by allowing overflights of U.S. military aircraft. Kazakhstan’s military also has sent a contingent of troops to Iraq “in solidarity” with the U.S. effort there, the minister said.
Asked whether Kazakhstan would be open to having U.S. military bases, Mr. Tokayev said, “That’s a matter for talks.”
A spokesman for the Kazakh Embassy said later that the minister was referring to the possibility that Kazakhstan would host U.S. forces.
Mr. Tokayev also noted that Uzbekistan’s government recently asked the Pentagon to remove the military airfield in the southern part of that country known as Karshi-Khanabad, or K-2. The base has been a hub for operations into Afghanistan. U.S. forces also operate a base in Kyrgystan.
The ouster from Uzbekistan followed U.S. criticism of the Tashkent government’s crackdown in May on protesters in the city of Andijon.
U.S. bases in Central Asia are seen by Beijing as part of a U.S. strategy aimed at containing China.
Fits and starts
A reconstruction update from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq shows that the U.S. involvement there is measured in a few steps forward and a few steps back.
Baghdad’s power supply dropped this month to an average of seven hours per day. But in the Shi’ite-dominated south, power surged from 15 hours to 18 hours.
Lack of power forced the shutdown at the Baiji North and Salahadin No. 2 refineries. But overall, oil revenues are expected to increase in 2005 to $13.9 billion.
Iraqi Airways expanded service by scheduling twice-weekly flights to Dubai. Next stops: Cairo and Beirut. And the Baghdad-to-Basra passenger train resumed operations this month after an insurgent attack had shut it down.
On another front, seven cities, including Basra, Nasariyah and Najaf, received $1 million in equipment, pipes and tools to improve water systems.
Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at bgertz@WashingtonTimes.com. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or at rscarborough@WashingtonTimes.com.