Pentagon Far More Confused and Uncertain Than Americans Realize
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Pentagon Far More Confused and Uncertain Than Americans Realize

October 15, 2001


Generals at odds with politicians on strategy

By Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor
[The Guardian - UK - Monday October 15, 2001]: The Bush administration is growing increasingly alarmed by the direction of the military campaign in Afghanistan after a week of almost continuous bombing has failed to dislodge either Osama bin Laden or the Taliban leadership.

In the absence of new intelligence on the whereabouts of the Saudi-born extremist accused of masterminding the September 11 terrorist attacks, US generals are under pressure from civilian defence officials to send greater numbers of special forces into Afghanistan to try to accomplish what the bombing failed to do - flush out a target.

But the Pentagon's top brass are reluctant to deploy their best troops in the absence of good intelligence about Bin Laden's whereabouts, and before further bombing has softened expected resistance on the ground.

The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is reported to be increasingly frustrated by the caution of the generals and their inability to come up with a creative battle plan. One of his aides was quoted in today's edition of Newsweek as comparing the attitude of today's Pentagon to the conventional thinking familiar in the Gulf war - a thinking now considered to be out of date and inappropriate for the delicate nature of the war against terrorism. "The media are preparing to cover a second Gulf war," the aide said, "and the military are preparing to fight one."

It was always assumed that the second phase of the military campaign in Afghanistan would involve the deployment of significant numbers of special forces, but as the moment drew closer yesterday differences were becoming more visible over how many should be used and in what manner. Mr Rumsfeld had taken office planning a radical shake-up of the military hierarchy, but did not have time to do so before the US came under attack on September 11. After the suicide attacks on New York and Washington were traced to Bin Laden and his camps in Afghanistan, Mr Rumsfeld gave his top generals the task of drawing up a radical and innovative battle plan.

His aides predicted that apart from a few opening air strikes to destroy the Taliban's air defences, the war would be a largely covert conflict. Instead the first week of the campaign has involved wave after wave of Gulf war-style strikes, and a rising toll of claimed civilian casualties.

The traditionalist generals believe that there are more military targets in Afghanistan which can be hit from the air, and have backed the renewed use of heavy bombers this week, after a weekend in which most strikes were carried out by smaller, tactical strikers launched from carriers in the Arabian sea.

One potential target is the Taliban's 55th Brigade, made up principally of Arab fighters who are thought to constitute the regime's Praetorian guard.

The first week of bombing has not "smoked out" Bin Laden or the Taliban leadership from their strongholds, as President Bush had hoped, and the Pentagon's military planners are said to be still operating in an intelligence vacuum. Some feel the job of finding these elusive targets belongs to the diplomats and the spies. "I hope the military isn't given this to solve," General Anthony Zinni, the former head of the Pentagon's central command, is reported to have grumbled to other officers.

British defence officials were yesterday giving the clear impression that military planners are deeply frustrated by the lack of intelligence about the impact of the air campaign and what next they should do to attack such elusive targets.

They say they are continuing to look at all the options for the deployment of ground troops, including "small units" - a reference to special forces - or "larger numbers" - the prospect of airborne troops gaining a bridgehead inside Afghanistan as a base for raids against Taliban forces.

But sources describe the plans as "paper talk" and say no decision has been made.

Top officers in the Pentagon are leaning away from setting up a base inside Afghanistan on the grounds that it would be vulnerable. Instead the most likely option is that helicopter-borne special forces units will launch their missions from the deck of the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the Arabian sea.

Military planners are concerned about the approaching winter and the pressures on the Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf, as well as the immediate tactical problem of knowing where to strike against the forces of an unconventional enemy.

While most of the Taliban's air defences have been destroyed, their light forces and the small open-backed lorries they use to move about the country were reported yesterday to be mostly intact.

The Afghan militia's deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir, yesterday offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral country if the US provided evidence of his guilt. But the offer, a reiteration of previous Taliban proposals, was immediately rejected by President Bush.

A White House spokeswoman said: "The president has been very clear: there will be no negotiations."


by Julian Borger in Washington and Luke Harding in Islamabad

[The Guardian - UK - Monday October 15, 2001]: At one end of the US war machine are people like Donald Rumsfeld, the ultimate defense intellectual who views the war on terrorism as an intriguing puzzle requiring new ways of thinking. At the other are the long-serving men in uniform such as General Tommy Franks, the former artillery officer leading the campaign.

Gen Franks is the commander-in-chief of the central command, whose headquarters are in Tampa Florida, from where he is orchestrating the air strikes on Afghanistan. He is a blunt, outspoken veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars and, by all accounts, he has taken to heart the lessons of both: be very sure of what you are doing before you put soldiers on the ground, and rely as much as possible on the awesome destructive capability of US air power.

The two men embody the different approaches circulating in the corridors of the Pentagon over how to pursue the war on terrorism. Winter is coming to the Afghan highlands and decisions have to be made quickly, but a week's bombing under Gen Franks's command has so far failed to push Osama bin Laden or the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, into the open where they could be picked out by an air strike, or grabbed by special forces.

That would have been considered a bonus in the initial phase of the campaign, but in the absence of such a stroke of luck, differences over how the plan should proceed have come to the surface.

Mr Rumsfeld and his civilian advisers believe the US military does not have the flexibility to combat an enemy like Bin Laden. They point to a computerized war game in 1997 in which the army took on a terrorist organization similar to al-Qaida, and lost. The generals, the analysts concluded, spent too much time looking for things to bomb, and not enough time looking for innovative methods of eliminating the enemy.

Mr Rumsfeld is reported to be so frustrated with the pursuit of the war by Gen Franks's command, with its emphasis on waves of Gulf-style bombing sorties, that he is pressing to have operational control shifted from Tampa to Washington. Mr Rumsfeld and his circle want to pursue a new military doctrine built around small groups of special forces soldiers who will dart in and out of Afghanistan looking for intelligence and targets.

Uniformed top brass are more comfortable with the technique of the Powell doctrine - named after secretary of state, Colin Powell - which dictates the overwhelming use of air power until the deployment of ground troops is either unnecessary or met with minimal resistance.

This week US and British special forces units are expected to be deployed in Afghanistan, but they are being sent on highly dangerous fishing expeditions, concealing themselves along the sides of dirt roads and mountain paths on the chance that Bin Laden or Mullah Omar, or their top lieutenants, might pass by.

Senior Pentagon officers have pointed out the dangers in such missions. The terrain is littered with millions of landmines, and "butterfly" anti-personnel mines, dropped by Soviet helicopter pilots over hostile territory in the 80s.

Before sending in larger numbers of troops, the traditionalist generals want to continue the air campaign. It has been kept up for seven days, with only a pause on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.

But such niceties are not helping the state department efforts to keep the international coalition together.

At the weekend the Pentagon admitted that an F-18 navy strike aircraft had accidentally dropped a 900kg (2,000lb) bomb on a suburb of Kabul, killing four civilians and wounding eight. Latitude and longitude were mixed up when the coordinates were entered into its guidance system.

The Taliban are claiming that civilian victims have been more numerous. In any case the distinction between combatants and non-combatants is blurred. Many of the "troop concentrations" targeted are conscripts who may have been market vendors only a few days earlier and who were rounded up by Taliban press gangs.

These troops have been hit by cluster bombs and on one occasion by a huge bunker-buster bomb which would have burrowed into the ground beneath them and then swallowed them as the explosion opened up a gaping crater.

As reports of the casualties percolate into the Middle East and Pakistan, support for the US is fast eroding. A poll of Pakistanis found that 83% supported the Taliban in its confrontation with the US. According to Newsweek, which conducted the poll, support for the Afghan militia jumped by 40% when the bombing began last week.

The Taliban are beginning to exploit the TV images of US mistakes by inviting reporters to view the damage. This "collateral damage" is inevitable in a bombing campaign. The only way to avoid it is to put troops on the ground, but that is fraught with human, military and political problems. The US population remains virtually unanimous in support of the campaign, but that may change with the return of body bags.

The Pentagon's military leaders have painful memories of the last two comparable special forces missions, which both ended in fiascos - the 1980 "Desert One" operation to rescue US hostages in Iran, and the 1993 raid on Mogadishu, Somalia, by Rangers and Delta Force commandos, which failed at the cost of 18 dead, 73 wounded, and two helicopters shot down.

Some in the Pentagon believe Bin Laden may not be in the caves of the Hindu Kush after all, but could be hiding in the warren of slums outside Kandahar. There, he would probably be protected by fervently committed guerrillas. Going in after him would be an operation reminiscent of the Somalia disaster.

Comment on these article(s)

October 2001


Bio and Nuclear Threats Escalate As Purposeful Leaks Proliferate to Mass Media
(October 26, 2001)
The timing of newsstories like this in the major Western media should be suspect now more than ever. For more than ever in fact governments and intelligence agencies are using the mass media by leaking things at times of convenience and more importantly with their own twists and turns.

"Stop Israel!" Pleads Israeli Professor
(October 26, 2001)
One Israeli, not invited by the naive and misguided American Jewish "liberals" to the USA, speaks up from Israel with tremendous courage and conviction. Her name is Tanya Reinhart and she deserves to be taken very seriously -- though far too many don't even know about her.

"Palestinian Statehood" - Another Grotesque Deception Unfolds
(October 25, 2001)
The political smokescreens are lifting a bit as the pressures build to go beyond mere words, yet at the same time a purposeful distorting haze is taking over. Bottom line: the kind of "Palestinian State" Yasser Arafat has maneuvered his people toward and is being cornered into implementing is a grotesque distortion of their aspirations and of what use to be meant by the term "Palestinian State."

"A Pen Bought And Sold" - A Saudi Poem Revisited - MER FlashBack
(October 21, 2001)
Change comes in the Middle East, as elsewhere, in complex ways. There is the regular daily news of course; and in the region especially it is inextricably intertwined with an ever-more-sophisticated and propagandistic journalistic establishment.

(October 24, 2001)
Both of the Georges are oh so full of themselves cocky -- just the personality type so many American's truly love. One is (to the amazement of many who wonder how in the world the U.S. chooses such persons to lead it) the President of the United States.

Massacres and Devastation Escalate Further In Palestine
(October 24, 2001)
The Palestinians are essentially defenseless with their backs up against the wall, the firing wall. Their "leadership" has been so corrupted and infiltrated that the Arafat regime has hardly any credibility with its own, not to mention anyone else.

Torture Now Coming to USA?
(October 22, 2001)
Adopting the tactics (as well as the goals) of the Israelis, and the methods long taught by the CIA in Latin America as well as the Middle East, the brave new world post 11 September is changing the face of the American homeland in ways nearly all Americans would have seriously resisted just a few long weeks ago.

Millions Likely To Die in Afghanistan U.N. Warns
(October 21, 2001)
As for Afghanistan, the American CIA worked behind the scenes to bring on the Soviet invasion of 1979, then engaged the Soviet Empire in a way that brought about the near-total devastation of Afghanistan and a huge uncounted death toll.

It's "New Imperialism" says leading British MP
(October 21, 2001)
Much pressure is building at the United Nations to not open itself to still more charges of being complicitous in "genocide", not to mention to do something to stop being seen as "an extension of the American State Department" (the actual private words of a senior U.N. official).

"Comply! Resistance Is Futile!"
(October 20, 2001)
British MP (Member of Parliament) George Galloway calls it the "new imperialism" (his article coming later today). On the whole the Anglo-British press is working up quite a frenzy (with notable exceptions like The Guardian and The Independent in the UK, sometimes The Nation in the U.S.).

The "Arafat Era" Collapsing or About To Be Reborn?
(October 20, 2001)
Yasser Arafat is losing both his grip on power (extended to him by the Israelis and the Americans for the past decade since the Gulf War) and his credibility (with his own people) at the same time.

The Coming Arab Crash
(October 19, 2001)
The west's most important friends in the Arab Middle East - Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah of Jordan, Mubarak of Egypt and the PLO's Yasser Arafat - are probably the world's most vulnerable political quartet.

Saudi Amb Bandar Badly Fails, Saudi Royals in Paralysis, US Relations in Doubt
(October 19, 2001)
Prince Bandar bin Sultan's 20+ year strategy has now substantially failed. Years ago, very much behind-the-scenes of course, the very controversial and in some circles much despised Saudi Ambassador in Washington began a relationship with the some of the most conservative and militant circles in Washington, very much including those associated with the powerful Israeli/Jewish lobby.

Worse Than Worthless Wartime "Promises"
(October 18, 2001)
The list of broken and disingenuous "promises" made to the Arabs by Western political leaders is something befitting a "Saturday Night Live" parody skit -- if only they would dare!

"New Era" Says Sharon Reacting In Character to "Gandhi" Assassination
(October 17, 2001)
He had called the Palestinians "lice" and "vermin" and "cancer", and he had urged their "transfer" or "extermination". Just Monday he has tendered his resignation as Minister of Tourism, insisting that Ariel Sharon was being too moderate and too compromising.

(October 17, 2001)
As for the British, what's going on in both Palestine and Kashmir, the two most likely potential nuclear flashpoints in our world today, can be traced back directly to what the British did in these areas when they were the "Empire"

(October 17, 2001)
For some time now Palestinians have been warning that because of Israel's assassination of Palestinian leaders, "crossing the red line" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they would respond.

Red Cross Bombed in Kabul Before Presidential Red Cross Visit in Washington
(October 16, 2001)
You gotta love the chutzpa of the Americans. Today the President went a few blocks from the White House to the Headquarters of the American Red Cross -- a little photo op designed to further enlist "the children of America" in his recently announced effort to help the children of Afghanistan. But just as President Bush was getting ready to do his Red Cross pictures reports came in from Afghanistan that the major Red Cross center in Kabul, complete with large Red Cross emblem on its roof, was destroyed by American bombs.

Saudi/U.S. "Meltdown"? And Neutralizing Al Jazeera With A Firm Embrace
(October 16, 2001)
While American and British officials rush to make one TV appearance after another with continual reassurances everything is going "as planned", that's not quite the reality of the situation as this article in today's Guardian makes quite evident.

What Can We Do About Terrorism? by Lt. Col Robert M. Bowman (ret)
(October 15, 2001)
"Mr. President, you did not tell the American people the truth about why we are the targets of terrorism. You said that we are the target because we stand for democracy, freedom, and human rights in the world. Baloney! We are the target of terrorists because we stand for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation in the world."

Pentagon Far More Confused and Uncertain Than Americans Realize
(October 15, 2001)
The Bush administration is growing increasingly alarmed by the direction of the military campaign in Afghanistan after a week of almost continuous bombing has failed to dislodge either Osama bin Laden or the Taliban leadership.

Al-Qaeda Weekend Statement
(October 15, 2001)
This isn't really about "secret messages". Anyone with a $300 satellite dish can watch the statements in full, in Arabic, on al Jazeera; and the text is widely available on the Internet, in this case from London and the BBC!

Hundreds Dead in Nigeria
(October 14, 2001)
Hundreds of people have been killed in religious clashes after anti-U.S. protests turned violent, sources have told CNN. The demonstrations against the U.S.-led missile strikes on Afghanistan began peacefully on Friday but spiralled into a killing spree during Saturday, CNN's Lagos bureau chief Jeff Koinange said.

akistan's Benazir Opens Campaign in Washington as Pakistan Trembles Anarchy
(October 14, 2001)
Benazir Bhutto came to Washington this week to open her campaign for a third term as Prime Minister of the world's second largest, and only nuclear armed, Muslim State -- her first two terms she was overthrown, political and financial corruption was rampant, and her arranged husband remains in a Karachi prison.

Iraq Likely To Be Next "Phase"
(October 14, 2001)
A powerful coalition of "hawkish" government officials, lobbyists (especially those connected with the Israelis and the arms corporations), conservative press publications and columnists, many of the national Jewish organizations, as well as millions of Christian fundamentalists associated with Pat Robertson and his daily TV "700 Club" program, is mobilized to make sure that "America's new war" does not end with Afghanistan and al-Qaeda.

Saudi Royals Bugged, Embarrassed, Unstable
(October 13, 2001)
The following information is about to come out in THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE on Monday and is being leaked in Washington this weekend to stir up interest and try to get publicity for the magazine and author on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow.

Attacks and Demonstrations Escalating in Arab and Muslim Countries
(October 13, 2001)
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in various cities in the Middle East to protest the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Many more thronged to mosques for Friday prayers throughout the region and heard anti-American sermons.

Western Commando Forces Getting Ready
(October 13, 2001)
This article in The Telegraph today is a good outline of what now seems likely to be immediately ahead in Afghanistan, pushed forward by weather considerations as well as by current expectations that American-sponsored key governments in Pakistan, Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, as well as the Arafat Regime, will all be able to weather the political storms with much expanded and mostly covert continual help from the western governments and intelligence services.

"War of the Worlds" by Mark Bruzonsky
(October 11, 2001)
In the case of America's new war, the full might of the USA is being mobilized not against the armies of other nation states, but against the fanatical descendants of a puritanical militant Islam whose calling has become relentless opposition to American hegemony and passionate assertion of their own quaintly medieval religious constructs.

Arafat Begs Israelis To Save Him
(October 10, 2001)
It's a most complicated political dance than ever at this historical crossroads. But bottom line Yasser Arafat and his regime have now, even more than before, thrown their future to the Israelis and the now omnipresent CIA...

Uri Avneri - Fronting for Arafat and for a Castrated "Palestinian State"
(October 10, 2001)
The Israeli writer and activist Uri Avneri is "on tour" in the USA on his way to Washington. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a few naive or on- the-take "peace groups" -- Jewish and otherwise -- have invited him to speak.

After Afghanistan, U.S. has Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine in its Sights
(October 10, 2001)
In this case there should be no one saying down the road that they didn't know what was being planned. The Americans have said publicly and in many different ways right from the start of this "new war" that it wasn't going to end with Osama bin Laden, with the Taliban government, or with Afghanistan.

The "Palestinian State" Charade
(October 9, 2001)
Most of the Arab regimes, including that of Yasser Arafat, have proved themselves so co-opted and so gullible over the years that you can't blame the Americans for continuing to try their little tricks and deceptions -- just look how well, at least from their point-of-view, such things have worked in the past..

Anthrax Terrorism Now Likely
(October 9, 2001)
Federal officials suspect foul play rather than an environmental source is at the root of two Florida anthrax cases that have left one man dead and hundreds of co-workers lining up for medical tests.

Biological Attack? Inept or Demonstration?
(October 9, 2001)
Is someone sending a message that they can do it, a kind of primative, and deadly, deterrence attempt to try to protect themselves? Might this be an "inept attack" as today's TIMES in London suggests in its headline? As the third case of Anthrax in Florida is reported this morning, something seems to be up as the following reports indicate.

Bush versus bin Laden - Syria Elected to Security Council
(October 8, 2001)
It's all quite amazing really, President George W. Bush versus Osama bin Laden. On the one hand you have the most powerful man in the world commanding the full might of not only the world's only superpower but a whole entourage of Western European allies, the new Russia, and to a considerable extent at least behind-the-scenes many Arab and Muslim "client regimes".

Arafat's Army Opens Fire On Its Own - More Anthrax in Florida?
(October 8, 2001)
The Palestinian leadership rushed to distance itself Monday from Osama bin Laden while its police forces opened fire on university students protesting the U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan.

FBI Knocked...He's Not Home But You Can Find Him at the White House
(October 8, 2001)
Now the world will become much more confusing and dangerous, and the opponents of the American Empire will obviously be forced even deeper underground -- both literally and figuratively -- becoming even more insular and isolated among themselves leading to who knows what kind of future blowback.

US Journalist Warns: "Do not try to change the government in Afghanistan!"
(October 7, 2001)
Late friday evening one of the leading American journalists who is an expert on the Middle East and Islamic affairs was asked a question on CNN to which she immediately briefly answered...and that was more was asked or answered.

"Our Friends are Killers, Crooks and Torturers"
(October 7, 2001)
Surely the British Prime Minister should know better than to try to simplify such a complex world we live in to that understandable by a third-grader. If not we have a little weekend reading Mr. Blair should be doing, starting in one of his own newspapers which we surely hope, especially now, he can find a few moments to read on a regular basis, The Independent.

History Corrected - U.S. Wanted Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
(October 6, 2001)
The world believes that there was an invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union on 24 December 1979 and then, in response, the U.S. and Muslim countries rallied to help Afghanistan repel the invaders. Wrong...just as so much of the widely accepted history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the actual realities of U.S. involvements in the Middle East are wrong because of the manipulation of history by various governments and intelligence agencies -- most especially the U.S. and Israel, the CIA and the Mossad.

(October 6, 2001)
"Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government's record of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things - to military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)?"

(October 5, 2001)
The government in Afghanistan, popularly known as The Taliban, has finally taken what could be a significant step. Just hours ago through its official representative in Pakistan the Afghan government has publicly offered to turn Osama bin Laden over...not to the United States, but to another Islamic country.

(October 5, 2001)
"The women in the audience -- academics, union members, mental health workers and advocates for female inmates, embraced her anti-American rhetoric, repeatedly interrupting her with cheers and standing ovations."

(October 5, 2001)
Now we know that a few years ago, when President Bill Clinton was meeting privately one-on-one with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, the U.S. "hired" the agents of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) to assassinate Osama bin Laden.

(October 3, 2001)
The United States and Britain yesterday called off military strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan at the last minute. Washington officials say today that a severe attack of last-minute cold feet by some key Arab members of the coalition caused President Bush to postpone the operation.

(October 3, 2001)
Osama bin Laden, arch nemesis of America today, is blowback from recent history -- the Gulf war, the permanent stationing of American forces in Arabia, and other American policies in the region, including the deceptive "peace process" fronting for Israel's brutal subjugation of the Palestinians.

(October 3, 2001)
The American Secretary of Defense is rushing to the Middle East, goal #1 to try one more time to "convince" the Saudis that Prince Sultan Airbase and its super-modern regional control center -- just completed in fact during the summer at a cost of many billions -- is needed for the new war.

(October 2, 2001)
"Drafted with a small coterie of loyal aides, mainly civilian political appointees at the Pentagon, the plans argue for open-ended war without constraint either of time or geography and potentially engulfing the entire Middle East and central Asia... The plans put before the President during the past few days involve expanding the war beyond Afghanistan to include similar incursions by special ops forces - followed by air strikes by the bombers they would guide - into Iraq, Syria and the Beqaa Valley area of Lebanon, where the Syrian-backed Hizbollah (Party of God) fighters that harass Israel are based."

(October 2, 2001)
Anyone with an ear tuned to Washington's politicians, lobbyists, and opinion molders can hear it quite loudly and clearly at this point. After taking down Osama bin Laden's al Queda network (said to be in some 50+ countries), after changing the government in Afghanistan, the American-led crusade (now more politely known by Colin Powell's term "campaign") will attempt to march on through the Middle East, next stop Baghdad.

(October 2, 2001)
It took them who intially talked of "crusade" nearly three weeks to figure out that all the "coalition building" wasn't going nearly as well as they keep saying in public and that doing something about all the Israeli oppression and "terrorism" against the essentially imprisoned Palestinian population would be a good idea in the post 11 September world and before the bombs start falling on Muslims here and there.

(October 1, 2001)
The situation is now so tense in Israel in dealing with the "Palestinian Authority" -- which it should be remembered the Israelis themselves created just a few years ago -- that Shimon Peres is getting more and more desperate.

(October 1, 2001)
The Palestinian opposition is usually very weak and confused. Had that not been the case for some time now Yasser Arafat would never have been able to do the things he has done for so long now, especially since the Gulf War; nor would Arafat have have been able to retain power these past few traumatic years, however weakened himself at this point.

(October 1, 2001)
Yes, it will be very interesting to see if and how Noam Chomsky answers the at first blush surprising attacks from Christopher Hitchens, who has now not only endorsed the new war but also at least parts of the "New World Order" that underpins it.

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