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January 15, 2009
Notes from the Pentagon

Afghan military strategy
A military analyst in Afghanistan has identified 2009 as a critical year for U.S. and allied counterinsurgency efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda. The analyst, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Inside the Ring that U.S. actions this year will either start the beginning of success or a shift toward "a tipping point toward failure."

"From a security perspective, the insurgents have grown more powerful and capable due to their safe havens in Pakistan; [improvised explosive device] attacks have increased and caused many coalition casualties but have killed more Afghans than anyone," the officer said.

According to the officer, who is well-versed in events throughout the region, the year is likely to see some political gains for the government in Kabul but more combat, as well. "Many areas that appear quiet are only so because the insurgency has roots there as well," said the officer. "The introduction of more U.S. forces will kick the beehives."

U.S. officials including Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have also warned that the U.S. is not winning in Afghanistan. The officer said some of the problems involve a lack of support from NATO allies, a continued overemphasis on Iraq and an insufficient number of advisers and trainers for Afghan security forces.

For example, he said, the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan has less than 60 percent of the forces needed to develop the Afghan security forces. He said that the Central Command-led U.S. Forces Afghanistan are short about 50 percent of the troops and forces it needs, as the military prepares to double the force with the addition of about 12,000 troops this year.

He said the unfolding U.S. counterinsurgency strategy this year will follow four main elements:

  • Expanding, training and equipping Afghan military and police forces to provide security.

  • Developing good governance and rule of law.

  • Creating a sustainable market economy.

  • Developing a free press and nationwide communications and media system to reach local communities to defeat insurgent propaganda and highlight Afghan success stories.

    Another major problem to date has been a lack of integrated planning for these soft-power elements. The result has been "stovepipe efforts that do not achieve full and efficient results and effects in areas of operation," the officer said.

    He said the focus also has to be on Pakistan and its tribal areas, which have been a haven for militants.

    "We cannot win in Afghanistan without a regional strategy and without Pakistan's full renunciation and support to terrorism and terrorist groups," the officer said.

    Pakistani military operations in the North West Frontier and Federally Administered Tribal Areas have been helpful so far but need to be stepped up, he said.

    "The same tribal, governance and development problems on the Afghan side of the border are mirrored across the border in Pakistan."

    "We are competing against a thousand years of culture but one that can change as trust and confidence grows in the hearts of each Afghani."

    The keys to success in Afghanistan are to continue efforts to put Afghans in the lead, and embed U.S. and NATO advisers in Afghan combat units' tactical to operational levels, he said.

    Additionally, he said, more combat power is needed on the ground for both coalition and Afghan forces, and substantially more development resources and funds are needed.

    China spying
    The annual report on foreign economic espionage provides some of the first official details in a report on the Chinese spy case of former defense contractor Chi Mak and his relatives, who were convicted on charges in 2007 related to illegally supplying embargoed defense technology to China.

    The annual report was produced by the office of the national counterintelligence executive, known as NCIX, and released last month. It identifies a global effort by foreign government and corporate spies to acquire U.S. high technology. Less than 10 nations, including "both allies and adversaries," did most of the spying, with Russia and China among the top collectors, the report said.

    Technology targets include a range of dual civilian-military technology, proprietary corporate data and military technology, including aeronautics, information technologies, lasers, sensors, optics, and armaments and explosives, unique manufacturing processes and trade secrets used to produce technological goods and services.

    On the Mak case, the report does not identify Mak by name but the details make clear that it is him. The report refers to the case as "a Chinese collector" and an example of a foreign intelligence service operation to obtain U.S. high technology.

    That the agent "operated in the United States for more than 20 years illustrates the elusive collection threat the United States faces from foreign intelligence services," the report said.

    The agent entered the United States from Hong Kong in 1978 and "began a steady rise to positions with increasing access to sensitive information, including a position with a major U.S. intelligence and defense contractor."

    "In interviews with the FBI after his arrest, the agent admitted that he had passed information on sensitive projects to China beginning in 1983," the report said.

    After he was naturalized in 1985, the agent obtained a security clearance and "continued espionage activities on behalf of China, traveling there with his wife approximately once every two years to deliver information to his handler in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and receive additional tasking."

    The agent's brother, Tai Mak, was identified in the report as a "former PLA propaganda officer" and, along with his wife and son, began working as "couriers for the PLA."

    "The agent uploaded sensitive U.S. defense information to removable media and passed it to his brother," the report said.

    "The case offers insights into clandestine operational methods employed by the Chinese Intelligence Services to obscure their activities," the report said, noting that to avoid electronic surveillance, the agents avoided phone calls to China and direct flights and encrypted data on computers.

    "Most importantly, the case demonstrates [China's] patient and purposeful approach to espionage," the report said. "The agent was allowed time to slowly infiltrate a company until he was in a position to provide sensitive information.

    "The case also showed the range of information and technologies that China may task a single, well-connected asset to collect against."

    Chi Mak worked for the government contractor Power Paragon in Anaheim, Calif., and was found guilty by a federal jury of illegal exports, conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

    While the report does not mention Mak, Joel Brenner, head of the NCIX, said of Mak that he "had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier, in order to burrow into the defense-industrial establishment to steal secrets."

    "The technologies he compromised cost U.S. taxpayers billions to develop, and the Chinese got it free," Mr. Brenner said in July 2007.

    CIA helper

    When CIA Director Michael V. Hayden leaves the agency later this year, he will take with him a partner who focused on making family life better for the agency's 20,000-plus spies, analysts and support personnel.

    Mr. Hayden's wife, Jeanine, has worked behind the scenes -- you might say in a clandestine manner -- to help the CIA's Family Advisory Board and the Family Services Division, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports. The two groups assist families, some of whom have dads and moms overseas in war zones, deal with education and health care needs.

    Since 2006, when Mr. Hayden took over Langley, his wife has accompanied the director on visits to more than two dozen countries, meeting with CIA officers and their families. She was no rookie in the travel game as the spouse of an career Air Force officer for more than 40 years.

    "She came from a culture with a strong tradition of care and concern for families," said an associate who asked not to be named despite the praise. "And Mrs. Hayden has taken great interest in employees and their families here at CIA."

    Mrs. Hayden hosted receptions, with her husband, several times a year for new employees and their spouses. Hundreds came. And there were evening receptions for officers who returned from war zones.

    She also suggested a newsletter containing articles on family issues that was distributed worldwide beginning in 2007. Mr. Hayden will leave the $177,000-a-year director's job once the Senate confirms or rejects Leon Panetta, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to head the CIA.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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