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May 20, 2010
Notes from the Pentagon

Kissinger on Iran
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger took a shot at the Obama administration's effort to curb Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday, saying he does not believe new sanctions aimed at Tehran will produce results.

"I don't think that these sanctions will achieve the objectives," Mr. Kissinger said during a luncheon address hosted by the Nixon Center.

The long-anticipated United Nations sanctions effort, led by the United States and announced Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, may "harass" the Iranians, Mr. Kissinger said. But he indicated they are unlikely to force Iran into ending violations of International Atomic Energy Agency controls on its uranium-enrichment program.

Mr. Kissinger said he does not fault the Obama team for trying to engage Iran and noted that negotiations in general succeed when the parties are able to come to terms, if there are consequences for one side not agreeing, or a combination of the two is involved.

However, the Obama administration appears to be using sanctions as an end goal, rather than combining them with other forms of pressure, he said.

The current administration policies for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program ultimately could be "a waste of time" if Iran continues uncontrolled nuclear efforts, he said.

"I don't think American military action at this point is a course that I would recommend," he said, noting that there are other ways of isolating Iran that would be effective.

On efforts to pressure North Korea into disarming its nuclear program, Mr. Kissinger said six-party talks have not succeeded because the North Koreans have been "selling the same thing two or three times" to the U.S. and other nations involved in the talks. The result is a bad precedent for U.S.-led efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, he said.

Petraeus and A.W. Karzai
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, who oversees all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, met recently Ahmad Wali Karzai, the controversial half-brother of Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, and a major power broker in strategic Kandahar province.

Army Col. Eric Gunhus, a spokesman for Gen. Petraeus, said the meeting took place at the military's regional command-south headquarters.

"Ahmad Wali Karzai is the leader of the local Kandahar Council and as such it was an official visit," Col. Gunhus said, noting that the four-star general also met local leaders, district leaders and the regional government.

According to a former official from the region, CIA officials in Afghanistan also reportedly met with Ahmad Wali Karzai, who has been linked by U.S. officials to corruption in the region. The meetings highlight a key political problem for the allied forces in seeking popular support in efforts to defeat the Taliban.

"In Kandahar, the core of the problem is Wali Karzai," the former official said.

No details of the meetings were disclosed, but the general's contact followed recent anti-U.S. outbursts by Hamid Karzai, who U.S. officials say was angered by news reports indicating that the U.S. military was planning a drone strike against his half-brother.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of forces in Afghanistan, said during his visit to Washington last week that the key to the upcoming Kandahar offensive is gaining the support of local Afghans and turning them against the Taliban.

A senior military official in Afghanistan said Ahmad Wali Karzai is a major power broker in the strategic Kandahar region, the focus of the joint military-civilian offensive to diminish Taliban control.

"There isn't a smoking gun on him," said the official of reports Mr. Karzai is involved in drug trafficking. "It's more like he operates like a Chicago-style politician, pulling strings behind the scenes in the local community."

The official said Ahmad Wali Karzai's networks control illicit activities throughout the region. "Things that happen financially rebound to his benefit and that of his cronies," the official said.

A U.S. intelligence official dismissed concerns about Ahmad Wali Karzai, noting that in terms of counterterrorism support, "you won't find anyone in that neighborhood who's done more for the United States than Ahmad Wali Karzai."

Reports of drug links or contacts with insurgents by Mr. Karzai are "utterly unproven," this official said. "If someone has evidence, they should bring it up, and they haven't," the official said, noting that "Jeffersonian democrats are a little hard to come by in Afghanistan."

Willard to Beijing
Adm. Robert Willard, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, will be traveling to Beijing with a large part of President Obama's Cabinet for the strategic and economic dialogue with the Chinese.

The four-star admiral's participation in the dialogue set to begin Monday will represent one of the highest-ranking U.S. military visits to China since Beijing severed military relations in January to protest over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Adm. Willard is widely viewed among U.S. China hands as a realist on the Chinese military, and one of his first noticeable policy changes since taking over the Pacific Command last year was to abandon past U.S. government rhetoric stating that China's military buildup poses no threat.

In congressional testimony earlier this year, Adm. Willard also said China's public claims to be a peaceful rising power were contradicted by its large-scale military buildup, a buildup that he has said exceeded annual U.S. intelligence estimates of the arms modernization for more than a decade.

In addition to Adm. Willard, senior Pentagon officials also will take part in the dialogue in an apparent effort to jump-start the stalled military-to-military program with China.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, told reporters on Wednesday that the U.S. defense and military officials will "have briefings with Chinese friends on a range of issues, including the recently concluded Nuclear Posture Review and issues associated with the Quadrennial Defense Review."

Adm. Willard, Mr. Campbell said, "will interact directly with both members of the Chinese delegation and others about how U.S. Forces, Pacific see areas where the United States and China can work closely together on humanitarian and other matters confronting our nations in the Asian-Pacific region."

"And of course, it is our hope that mil-to-mil relations will pick up steam in the latter half here of 2010," Mr. Campbell said. "And I believe that there will be some discussions to that effect during our time in Beijing."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made better military relations with China a priority, but China's military has not cooperated. China first cut off military relations in October 2008 to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and even though some exchanges were held after that, the Chinese military again cut off exchanges in January after a second package of arms sales to Taiwan, worth an estimated $6.4 billion, were announced.

Gay ban tour
While Washington liberals look for the votes to repeal the military's gay ban, Elaine Donnelly is traveling across the country warning about the dangers to combat readiness.

Mrs. Donnelly, who runs the Michigan-based Center for Military Readiness and supports the gay prohibition, was at West Point earlier this month speaking to the Army's future the men and women who will live and fight in close quarters with open gays, if President Obama wins repeal.

"Their eyes got as large as saucers when I told them how repeal will work," said Mrs. Donnelly, who spoke to four classes at the U.S. Military Academy. She mentioned such issues as privacy and adhering to new rules on gay tolerance.

"They were concerned about openly opposing the president's view," she tells special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

Next week, Mrs. Donnelly will travel to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., to speak with officer-students on the military culture and the gay-ban policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." She will appear on a panel that includes a gay rights advocate.

The speakers will discuss a book published by the base's Air University, "Attitudes Aren't Free: Thinking Deeply About Diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces," to which Mrs. Donnelly contributed a chapter. The book includes a list of 1,163 retired admirals and generals who signed a letter to the president urging him to keep the 1993 law that imposes the ban on grounds that open gays disrupt discipline and unit cohesion.

Mrs. Donnelly said she would honor speaking invitations from the Air Force and Naval academies, but none has arrived to date.

Whether there is a repeal vote may become clearer this month. The House Armed Services Committee is writing its fiscal 2011 defense bill this week. But Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, announced on Wednesday that repeal will not be part of his committee's bill. The question now is whether Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, and the bill's prime sponsor, will seek a vote on the House floor.

The American Legion said in a statement it was concerned that the House might seek to repeal the gay ban through an amendment to pending legislation.

Clarence E. Hill, the Legion's national commander, said in letters to House leaders that "enacting any law that does not enhance the military's ability to accomplish that mission would be detrimental to the security of our nation."

"We believe that the repeal of [don't ask, don't tell] would be such an action."

The Senate Armed Services Committee writes its budget version next week.

A GOP staff member told Inside the Ring that Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, at this point does not have sufficient votes to include a repeal in his bill. The source said a letter from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asking Congress to hold off on a vote now is the reason why.

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