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April 14, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Mexico woes
Mexico still faces insurgents, the chances for violent upheaval and a prosperous drug trade that supplies most of the United States' marijuana and foreign-produced methamphetamine.

Those assessments are found in a secret Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on future threats facing the United States from 2000 to 2020.

It may be one reason President Bush, in trying to craft a new immigration policy, moves so gingerly in dealing with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Washington does not want an anti-American leader in the mold of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to emerge in Mexico. Some excerpts from the DIA report:

"Narcotics trafficking and its ability to intimidate and corrupt officials at all levels will pose a formidable challenge to Mexico's government and society in general. Mexican criminal groups will become even more involved in both the movement and distribution of cocaine serving the U.S. market. Mexico also will remain a heroin supplier and the main source for most of the foreign-derived methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States through 2020."

"Economic restructuring, underdeveloped safety nets and government services, marginalization of impoverished states, and continued deficiencies in public education will hamper Mexico in resolving pressing social issues, increasing its vulnerability to continued insurgent activity and occasional, localized violent upheavals."

"Long-standing, deeply rooted Mexican sensitivities over perceived U.S. encroachment on Mexican sovereignty and undue U.S. influence over Mexican affairs will continue to affect and limit the nature of bilateral relations with the United States."

Hu visit
Pentagon officials tell us there will be almost no discussion and no public statements or agreements related to security or military matters during the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

However, officials say the agenda for the talks between President Bush and Mr. Hu will be dominated by currency, trade and intellectual property issues, and that for the Bush administration to consider Mr. Hu's visit a success, the Chinese side must offer major concessions, including a major currency revaluation.

Unlike Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who last year publicly questioned Chinese secrecy over its arms buildup in a Singapore speech, it is not clear whether Mr. Bush will raise the issue of China's lack of transparency on the issue. The president has avoided all public mention of the buildup, which the Pentagon has highlighted in several reports as threatening U.S. allies and security interests in Asia.

China is expected to hammer away at the United States over the issue of arms sales to Taiwan, which currently are bogged down in internal Taiwanese political fighting. Mr. Hu also wants Mr. Bush to issue another statement supporting Beijing's policies toward Taiwan, something Pentagon officials hope the president will avoid.

Mr. Bush is also expected to raise the issue of China's continuing human rights abuses. The two presidents are scheduled to meet Thursday.

Still in charge
Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the military's top communications strategist in Iraq, was asked about reports from Islamist groups that Abu Musab Zarqawi is no longer in charge of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

"We're not seeing that," Gen. Lynch said. "We've seen the same reports. We've done our investigation of the reports, and we don't believe that's true. Zarqawi still has the same prominence in Iraq as he had all along, and he's still our primary target. And apprehension of a guy like Abu Ayman is going to help us work our way towards Zarqawi, and that's just a matter of time."

Ayman was Saddam Hussein's former chief of staff for intelligence who became an insurgent leader, specializing in kidnappings and assassinations of Iraqi government officials. Iraqi forces captured him on March 7. He is giving the coalition a better understanding of what makes the enemy tick.

The long war
Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to characterize the struggle now facing the West as it battles terrorism:

"Now it's a test of wills. If they can't win a battle, where can they win? The only place they can win is in the capitals of Western countries. And with trying to persuade the American people and other Western nations, free people, 'look, it isn't worth the cost, it isn't worth the time, it isn't worth the lives, it isn't worth the money.' And to get them to toss in the towel and say it's not worth the effort. Well, it is worth the effort because terrorists are against free people behaving as free people. That's the very essence of what America is."

Hersh vs. Rummy
Every few months or so, Seymour Hersh comes out with a story in the New Yorker charging all sorts of things at the Pentagon, and the Pentagon scratches its head.

This time, Mr. Hersh has written that President Bush is actively planning to invade Iran, no less with nuclear weapons. And to boot, the Pentagon also has inserted combat troops into Iran.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who has termed Mr. Hersh's articles "fiction," used words such as "fantasy land" and "fantasies" at a Wednesday press conference. The words seemed aimed at Mr. Hersh's latest work.

A senior administration official tells us that U.S. Central Command and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon have updated the war plan for Iran, but that no active planning is under way. The official says the military option, if ever used by the president, is years away as a diplomatic course is followed.

The latest Hersh story is similar to a piece he wrote on Iran in January 2005. Then, Rumsfeld aide Larry Di Rita issued a strongly worded statement, saying the Hersh assertion "is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed. ... The post-election meeting he describes between the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not happen. ... Mr. Hersh's preference for single, anonymous sources for his most fantastic claims makes it difficult to parse his discussion of Defense Department operations."

Socom update
We received a letter from Col. Samuel T. Taylor III, spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, that takes issue with our characterization last week that Socom is not making the transformational changes sought by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In particular, Col. Taylor said the report on Socom by retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, which we reported was critical of Socom, also has some nice things to say.

"The relevant facts are Socom welcomed the examination of the command's activities by Gen. Downing, just as we have welcomed any external reviews," Col. Taylor said. "The Downing report concluded that there have been impressive gains in [special operations forces] capability since September 11, 2001."

The report also stated that resources are being directed to the proper areas and a majority of initiatives recommended by the report are "being done."

"The review also concluded that Socom, as a global command, is adapting very well to its responsibilities planning DOD activities and synchronizing plans for the global war on terror," he stated.

  • 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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