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July 25, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

New Tomahawks
The Navy is making progress in developing a new low-cost cruise missile with the nondescript name of the Affordable Weapon.

Built completely with off-the-shelf technology, the new cruise missile was ready for action in the latest war in Iraq, according to Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a supporter of the missile.

The Affordable Weapon costs about $50,000 apiece, compared with the $1.7 million cost of each of the Navy's current Tomahawk missiles. The new missile has a range of up to 600 miles and can deliver a 200-pound warhead with pinpoint accuracy.

But one of the most unique features of the Affordable Weapon, Mr. Hunter tells us, is its ability to linger over an area for several hours while intelligence agents and military forces locate targets and then direct the missile to its destination.

So far, the Affordable Weapon has been tested 14 times successfully, Mr. Hunter said. The missile is being developed with the Office of Naval Research and the San Diego-based Titan Corp.

Another new cruise missile under development is the successor to the Tomahawk known as the Tactical Tomahawk, which at about $600,000 is less expensive than the older Tomahawk.

The newest-generation Tactical Tomahawk was test-launched on Sunday from the attack submarine USS Tucson off the coast of Southern California.

It was the first live test-firing of the new cruise missile from a submarine. The test demonstrated that the missile's course could be changed in midflight through a new submarine-based combat-control system. The missile could be put on ships and submarines by next year.

Bad press
L. Paul Bremer, the American civilian administrator in Iraq, was in Washington this week briefing everyone from the president to the press on developments in Baghdad.

The former manager for Henry Kissinger's large consulting firm, Mr. Bremer also briefed a few TV analysts at a private Pentagon briefing.

One pressed him on why the press coverage out of Baghdad was so negative, day after day, in spite of the fact much of the country is at peace and is rebuilding.

Mr. Bremer responded that he and his staff are holding press conferences regularly to tell the full story. "He can't help it that they don't cover it," a participant said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz this week told the press of many positive trends in Iraq: "There is no humanitarian crisis. There is no refugee crisis. There is no health crisis. There has been minimal damage to ... infrastructure; minimal war damage, lots of regime damage over decades, but minimal war damage to infrastructure except for telecommunications, which we had to target."

Al Qaeda brain trust
Indian counterterrorism specialist K.P.S. Gill believes the al Qaeda network is directed by an extremist religious "brain trust" operating behind the scenes that is providing operators with the ideological underpinnings for terrorist attacks.

"It is a brain trust bent on world conquest; Islamic conquest and it is doing it through these means," Mr. Gill, a counterterrorism adviser to the Indian government, said in a speech to defense officials, businessmen and journalists at the American Foreign Policy Council.

A senior U.S. official told us recently that the idea of a secret religious hierarchy behind the al Qaeda network is being investigated.

One key piece of evidence: The videotape of Osama bin Laden explaining the September 11 attacks that was obtained in Afghanistan. The official said that on the tape, bin Laden speaks as though reporting to a Saudi cleric named al-Ghamdi. Investigators are looking into whether al-Ghamdi is connected to a network of Islamist extremist religious leaders who are behind al Qaeda.

Guerrilla debate
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and his Persian Gulf commander, Army Gen. John Abizaid, continue to spar from afar on whether the fighters killing U.S. troops in Iraq are part of a guerrilla campaign.

At a June 30 Pentagon briefing, Mr. Rumsfeld said it was not an orchestrated guerrilla campaign. Weeks later, Gen. Abizaid appeared before the same press corps and said he was facing a "classic" guerrilla campaign. The split created a lot of "Rumsfeld-Abizaid differ" headlines in the next day's newspapers.

Yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld refused to back off. He said he had researched the definitions of "guerrilla" and "insurgency." He said he sticks by his belief that the United States faces disparate units of Saddam loyalists, criminals and foreign invaders not an organized offensive associated with a guerrilla war.

"I've had this discussion with my friend John Abizaid. And next time he's here, you can ask him," Mr. Rumsfeld said mischievously, perhaps implying the general now agrees with his boss.

The "Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms" defines guerrilla force as, "A group of irregular, predominately indigenous personnel organized along military lines to conduct military and paramilitary operations in enemy-held, hostile or denied territory."

Stokes promoted, retiring
Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stokes, one of the Pentagon's top China specialists, will be retiring in September. However, Col. Stokes is being promoted within the China Division.

He recently took over as division chief, replacing Col. Charles Hooper, who left for another assignment.

The China Division is in charge of policy toward China and Taiwan. Col. Stokes, who is fluent in Chinese, has been one of the key figures within the Pentagon who closely studies China's military and missile buildup, which is aimed primarily at preparing for a surprise attack against Taiwan.

Col. Stokes believes Taiwan urgently needs to develop or buy missile defenses. China's "growing arsenal of conventional and land attack cruise missiles pose the most significant [Chinese] coercive threat to Taiwan," he stated in a recent U.S.-Taiwanese conference in Texas.

  • 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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