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September 5, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq lessons
A secret "lessons learned" report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff states that Operation Iraqi Freedom made great strides in reducing fratricide, better known as "friendly fire."

"Blue Force tracking allowed U.S. to have significant situational awareness," says the report, stamped "secret." "Increased situational awareness improved tempo and assisted in fratricide prevention. Significant effort undertaken to establish capability to U.S. and coalition allies ground forces.

"Improved common operating picture enabled a faster decision cycle and allowed commanders to rapidly adjust plan in execution. Improved situational awareness and fratricide prevention acts as enabler for aspects of information operations, public diplomacy and public affairs. CentCom solved interoperability issues by integrating six different systems."

Chinese border buildup
China's military is quietly building up troops on borders from North Korea to India by replacing tens of thousands of border police with regular army forces, a U.S. official said.

About 150,000 Chinese military troops recently replaced People's Armed Police troops on China's border with North Korea, according to Hong Kong's Sing Tao newspaper.

China's rulers are worried that instability on the Korean Peninsula could lead to a massive influx of North Korean refugees into China.

North Korean leaders in the past have threatened to flood northeastern China with refugees as a way to keep Chinese aid flowing.

The U.S. official said the thousands of troops near North Korea have been moving in over the past year. The replacement appears to be part of a nationwide effort by China's communist rulers to better control borders.

"There's reason to believe there may be a change in philosophy [in Beijing] on borders," the official told us. "They may view their borders as too porous and the army as more disciplined and capable than the People's Armed Police" the communist troops that normally are in charge of border security.

In addition to the replacement of border police with regular army troops near North Korea, Chinese troops also were moved to borders near Vietnam, Burma and India. Near the Indian border, Chinese troops recently arrested some Indian troops that had strayed over the border.

The official said there is no reason to believe the buildup of Chinese troops near North Korea is related to a potential conflict in Korea.

Disclosure of troop buildup near North Korea came before the second round of unsuccessful international talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear arms program.

Logistics warning
Add Lt. Gen. Charles S. Mahan Jr. to the list of retiring Army generals who think the Army is stretched too thin. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, made the same comments at his June retirement ceremony. He sent some not-too-subtle barbs at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his staff, none of whom were in the audience.

Here's what Gen. Mahan, deputy chief of staff for logistics, said at his farewell ceremony:

"Over the past 35 years, I've seen the Army go through many transformations, but never have I seen it stretched so thin, even including those horrible years of the early 1970s. I had hoped that, on this day, I could depart without concern about the current or future logistics readiness of our Army that our great logistics organizations and soldiers would have resolved every issue but that's not reality in an environment where Army requirements always exceed Army resources.

"While logistics have not imposed any operational limits in Afghanistan or Iraq, there were shortfalls in units, capabilities, processes, training and material that reflected earlier, and prudent, risk-taking as we focused on transforming our Army. September 11 caused us to reassess and rebalance those risks and we took actions to mitigate those shortfalls before we went to war. Even today, we continue to address them as we capture and act upon the lessons learned from the global war on terrorism."

Pacific Protector
The U.S. Navy is getting ready to take part in an Australian-led exercise this month called Pacific Protector, which will practice intercepting ships transporting weapons of mass destruction, goods and missiles.

The "interdiction training exercise" will simulate a coalition of military forces going after weapons proliferators on the high seas. One Pentagon official said the maneuvers "are not specifically aimed at any one country."

"Certainly North Korea is high on the list" of major weapons proliferators, the official said.

Other officials said Pacific Protector, due to kick off around Sept. 26, is part of the Bush administration's new Proliferation Security Initiative, which is directed at cutting off North Korean missile and weapons exports.

Some military officials are nervous about the idea of intercepting ships at sea because of legal concerns. But senior Bush administration officials said the legal basis for taking action against proliferators on the high seas and in the air already exists as part of international conventions related to self-defense. The exercise will be held by ships operating in the Coral Sea off the northeast coast of Australia.

The current members of the PSI are the United States, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Britain. The proliferation maneuvers will follow a U.S.-Australian naval exercise known as Crocodile '03, which lasts until Sept. 25.

The initiative also will target weapons exports to rogue states such as Iran and Libya.

China and Russia are likely to be affected by the initiative. Both countries have been identified as key arms sellers to rogue states and unstable regions. U.S. officials said candidates for additional PSI members include Canada, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, the Philippines, Russia and Thailand.

  • 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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