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October 15, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq's insurgency
Iraqi insurgents are viewed inside the Pentagon as a "thinking enemy" made up of two elements former members of Saddam Hussein's regime and terrorists linked to Abu Musab Zarqawi. The insurgents have changed tactics and now focus almost exclusively on U.S. and coalition troops, instead of Iraqis.

More bad news: The number of "jihadists" is growing as they continue to flow into Iraq from Syria. Recently a group of Sudanese terrorists was found during fighting in Samarra. And Iran, through its Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Quds section of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been funneling money and arms to insurgents. (The Washington Times reported this development in April.)

Bombing raids are beginning to knock out the top levels of the Zarqawi network. One recent aerial bombing attack killed six senior lieutenants of Zarqawi.

U.S. intelligence agencies have not been able to get a good estimate of the numbers. However, Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of forces in Iraq, told Congress recently that initial estimates put the number of insurgents at about 5,000. But Gen. Abizaid noted that U.S. and coalition forces have killed up to three times that number.

The U.S. strategy in Iraq is to get the Iraqi security forces more in the forefront of battling the insurgents while gradually moving U.S. forces to the background.

Rummy's team
Defense officials tell us key members of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's inner circle are preparing to leave the Pentagon, a sign that Mr. Rumsfeld himself likely will not stay on long in a second Bush administration.

Officials said one of the first who is planning on leaving is Ray DuBois, the Pentagon's director of administration and management who has been with Mr. Rumsfeld since the transition in 2000. Mr. DuBois is said to be leaving in January.

A Pentagon spokesman said Mr. DuBois is "considering his options for continued service in a second Bush administration."

Feith's disguises
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith is a man of many faces. Just check the local newspapers.

The Washington Post has run photos of former defense official J.D. Crouch and State Department official Marc Grossman. The Post identified both men as Douglas Feith.

On Oct. 5, The Washington Times ran a photo of Mr. Feith and identified him as the Polish defense minister.

Mr. Feith's different faces and names are only adding to conspiracy theories. After all, author Seymour Hersh has labeled Mr. Feith's policy shop a neoconservative cabal.

Quipped Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff, "One would suspect these mistakes have created chaos among the conspiracy theorists who like to weave tales about Feith and his office."

Kerry's star
There has been much Internet blogging about one of John Kerry's medal citations for combat in Vietnam. The Democratic presidential nominee was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry during his four-month tour. But some 15 years later, he received another citation for the same action, this time signed by then-Navy Secretary John Lehman.

Asked recently about the citation, Mr. Lehman said he could not recall signing it, leading to speculation it was somehow bogus. We think we know what happened.

Navy officials tell us that sometime in the mid-1980s Mr. Kerry or his staff asked for another "original" citation, possibly to display in a second office or replace a lost one. The Navy gets scores of such requests a year, if not hundreds. The original citation was retyped, with a few nonessential changes, and then put through the Navy secretary's signature machine. This is why Mr. Lehman could not remember signing it. He didn't.

Kerry and Shinseki
In last Friday night's second presidential debate, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry gave an inaccurate recount of the final days in uniform of retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff during the Iraq buildup and war in 2003.

The debate issue was whether there were sufficient ground troops in Iraq to enforce order after Baghdad fell.

Said Mr. Kerry, "General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told [President Bush] he was going to need several hundred thousand, and guess what he retired General Shinseki for telling him that."

Wrong on both points.

Under questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Shinseki said before the war he believed the United States needed several hundred thousand ground troops in Iraq. The number was about double the plan.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said recently he could find no evidence that Gen. Shinseki made a formal recommendation.

Gen. Shinseki was challenged by higher-ups about his estimate. And he and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld did not see eye to eye on Army transformation. But Gen. Shinseki, a decorated Vietnam War combatant, was not forced out by Mr. Bush or anyone else. He served his full four-year term before retiring as scheduled in August 2003 after 37 years in the Army.

Chinese influence
The Chinese ambassador recently sought to influence the House version of the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill. Ambassador Yang Jiechi sent a letter to Congress Oct. 1 opposing a provision that would set up a U.S.-Taiwan military exchange program to boost the island's defenses. The ambassador claimed the program would be "tantamount to forging a military alliance" and is against U.S. policy.

The ambassador also stated China's opposition to other provisions of the bill that support Taiwanese defenses and punish China for arms proliferation activities.

He stated that recent Taiwanese actions pose a "grave threat to peace and stability" in the Taiwan Strait and warned that "wrong signals" from the United States would lead Taiwan to take "dangerous steps."

Mr. Yang said the United States and China have "good cooperation" in countering terrorism.

However, other Bush administration officials said Chinese support for the war on terrorism has been limited to a few public statements.

The exchange provision and sanctions against Chinese companies were dropped in the House-Senate conference. But a provision authorizing the transfer of the USS Anchorage dock landing ship was approved, despite the Chinese opposition.

Afghan balloting
The Pentagon established three layers of security for Saturday's historic elections in Afghanistan that produced Hamid Karzai as the first elected president.

Inner security at polling places was provided by Afghan police. A second ring, staffed by Afghan national guardsmen, patrolled areas around polling places. Included in this ring were quick-reaction forces.

The third layer was provided by U.S. troops and other NATO allies, who hunted for groups of Taliban and al Qaeda seeking to carry out attacks. The layered defense worked well. The election was nearly violence-free.

  • 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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