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February 7, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Bin Laden to Libya?
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is making preparations to move his family to Libya, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Recent intelligence reports said spy agencies have picked up indications that bin Laden family members are preparing to head for Libya from other parts of the world that the officials would not identify.

In the past, bin Laden has kept his several wives and numerous offspring at several residences in Afghanistan, including compounds in Jalalabad and Kandahar, until U.S. military forces ousted the ruling Taliban militia in December 2001. There were an estimated 50 bin Laden family members in Afghanistan, including wives, children and bodyguards.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, intelligence reports surfaced indicating that bin Laden and his family members were heading for Somalia, in East Africa. A watch was placed on the lawless desert country, but bin Laden and his family did not show up.

Other intelligence reports have placed bin Laden in hiding somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

U.S. intelligence has started a massive worldwide hunt for bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Some officials think he is dead. However, an audiotape of bin Laden's voice surfaced late last year discussing recent al Qaeda attacks in Yemen, Indonesia and Kuwait, the first indication since December 2001 that he is alive. The U.S. government is offering a $25 million reward to anyone who helps kill or capture bin Laden. So far, no one has collected the reward.

Saudi restrictions
Saudi Arabia limited the number of U.S. personnel who could man a sophisticated U.S. air command center at Prince Sultan air base during strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, says a confidential Pentagon report.

The same report done by a panel of officers, or Tiger Team, for Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, also said the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at the base is not ready to conduct a major regional war. The center ran the relatively small air war over Afghanistan, and would do the same over Iraq.

Other notable excerpts from the 100-plus-page report:

•"We rapidly fielded and employed a kill force to thoroughly dominate our enemies and quickly bring the conflict to an intermediate end state by eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban rule of Afghanistan. "We must be prepared to use this facility for even more complex MTW (major theater war) level combat in the future."

•"Collateral damage concerns, the CNN effect, and casualty aversion are all placing additional tension on the CAOC organization. Expectations of tighter and tighter precision required more attention. All these factors have changed the texture of the forward commander's environment and his concerns. He needs highly trained people to address each of them."

•"We are not reaching our full potential, or even taking full advantage of today's CAOC, because [of] many simultaneous disconnects among the people, process, system and organizational arenas.

"We must transform the [Prince Sultan air base] CAOC into a true weapon system so when the much larger MTW crew force arrives, they can snap right onto an existing foundation to start killing targets from day one. This will take many immediate, simultaneous, dramatic, fully funded, and revolutionary actions."

•"A pilot of systems health at [Prince Sultan air base] shows that CAOC system readiness drops dramatically for two weeks in conjunction with every [expeditionary force] rotation. The CAOC director is a [Navy] rear admiral, untrained in the business, who does not perform CAOC director duties at the right level."

•"Operators at [Prince Sultan air base] told us the current norm is 14-19-hour days with no time off for 60 days at a time. We cannot keep this pace indefinitely."

Deployment snags
Defense officials tell us the deployment of U.S. aircraft and forces to the Middle East in preparation for operations against Iraq has been slowed by problems within the Air Force.

Pentagon officials in charge of the movement of forces to the region are said to be extremely upset by the Air Force's failure to respond to requests for what the Pentagon calls "lift" — cargo and other transport and support aircraft.

One official said the problem is setting back the Pentagon's schedule for when U.S. forces will be best positioned to start an invasion against Iraq.

Navy Capt. Stephen Honda said the Transportation Command is "satisfying the U.S. Central Command and other combatant commanders' expectations on a daily basis" and has been complimented regularly on its work.

Wooing cable
The Pentagon continues to court cable TV's "talking heads" on the Iraq crisis, figuring their influence shapes American public opinion. And, after all, the backing of the American people is required for starting any war.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has hosted two meetings with some of the most conspicuous military pundits and is planning a third.

Now, Jim Wilkinson, spokesman for U.S. Central Command and for Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who would run a war in Iraq, is also wooing the talk-meisters.

"Wanted to reach out and introduce myself," he said in an e-mail to various talking heads. "I am the Director of Strategic Communications at U.S. Central Command and wanted to make sure you had all of my contact information should you have any questions or need for information from Gen. Franks or from our command. Talk to you soon."

His e-mail went to such well-known retired officers as Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander; Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney; and Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis.

Mr. Wilkinson told us in an e-mail, "I already work closely with reporters but we get lots of calls from the talking heads who are asking for information, context, etc. ... We just want to make sure everyone knows that our door is always open to anyone who is looking for factual information about CENTCOM's activities in our AOR (Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, etc)."

Marine gunfight rules
With U.S. military forces ready for war with Iraq, troops around the nation are preparing to ship out for the Middle East. The Marines have taken a lighter look at some rules of ground combat, and we obtained a copy of them.

Among the 24 rules are such gems as, No. 1: "Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns," and, No. 2, "Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive."

Rule No. 7 is: "In 10 years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived." And No. 8: "If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading and running."

Rule No. 10 addresses a worst-case scenario: "Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty." And No. 11: "Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose."

As for prisoners, the rule is: Be careful. No 18: "Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them)."

And advice for warriors in combat, Nos. 21 and 22: "Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one."

In a dig at other services, the Marines offer this: "U.S. Navy rules: 1. Adopt an aggressive offshore posture. 2. Send the Marines. 3. Drink Coffee."

Army rules: "Show up after fight to provide security and help hand out food to all of the displaced civilians."

Air Force rules: "Watch this all on cable in a BOQ [Bachelor Officers´ Quarters] while drinking a beer."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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