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December 1, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China sub buildup
China has started construction of its second Yuan-class attack submarine and it likely will be deployed in 2010, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The new submarine is a key element of China's huge increase in submarine forces that some analysts say reveals Beijing is on a war- footing, while many U.S. military and intelligence officials play down Beijing's arms buildup.

Since 2002, China has deployed more than 14 new submarines, with many others in the pipeline. They include the first Yuan and one Type 094 ballistic-missile submarine, known as the Jin class. At least two Type O93 nuclear-powered attack submarines are under construction, as well as additional Jin, Song, and Shang submarines, according to Navy officials.

The newly deployed subs include one Ming submarine, 10 Song submarines and one Shang class. China also purchased four diesel Kilo submarines from Russia and is getting eight more over the next several years.

Discovery of the first Yuan-class submarine in the summer of 2004 will long be remembered for the surprise of the deployment. The submarine was built and deployed without ever being detected in development by U.S. intelligence agencies in what officials say is part of a string of intelligence failures on the Chinese military buildup. Officials said the reason the submarine remained secret was that it was built completely underground in a secret Chinese production facility that included underground waterways to a port.

Air Force lingo
Here is another reason Gen. T. Michael Mosley, Air Force chief of staff, is one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's favorite generals.

Gen. Mosley is always "leaning forward," a requirement Mr. Rumsfeld imposed on his senior officers after the September 11 attacks.

In his latest move, the general ordered a survey of the Air Force to find out who speaks a foreign language. The questionnaire is mandatory for all enlisted personnel and officers ranked lieutenant colonel and below.

The survey is in the form of a list of languages. "Airmen are asked to identify which of those languages they have skills in and to what degree they possess those skills," an Air Force message says.

Here's the payoff. If a person demonstrates skill in a "strategic language" (such as Arabic), it can raise pay as much as $500 a month. Multiple languages can fetch $1,000 a month.

Hayden's day
The CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, revealed this week one of the difficulties he faces in his job: staying optimistic.

"Every morning I get in the car at about 6:45 a.m., and I'm handed my morning read book, which comprises elements of the president's brief plus a whole bunch of other cable traffic," Gen. Hayden told WTOP radio.

After more than an hour reading through the latest agent and electronic intercept reports on the way to CIA headquarters, "it is really hard to have an optimistic view on life after going through the book. I mean, there is rarely a good news story," he said.

The comments bolster the saying about the dark outlook common to many in the intelligence business: When an intelligence officer smells flowers, he looks for a hearse.

Al-Sadr's rise
Now that Shi'ite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr has risen to become the most powerful cleric in Iraq, we thought we would flash back to an April 2004 article in The Washington Times.

Sheik al-Sadr, at the time, was a troublesome cleric who had organized the Mahdi Army with financial help from Iran and its client terror group, Hezbollah.

The U.S. Army battled his army twice, nearly obliterating it. But the United States never directly went after Sheik al-Sadr, allowing his army to rise again to the point where today its death squads are helping lead Iraq into a civil war.

Back in 2004, The Times talked to military officers about how the United States allowed Sheik al-Sadr to become so powerful -- and dangerous. They knew of the anti-Saddam Hussein cleric well before the 2003 invasion. But they judged him to be a marginal player who likely would influence only a handful of young Shi'ite followers.

That assessment clearly turned out to be wrong by the summer of 2003 as his following grew and became more violent. The United States took some tentative steps. It arrested some of his key lieutenants and shut down some of his more outrageous newspapers.

But his army just kept on attacking in a bid to control key southern holy centers such as Najaf and Karbala.

The U.S. Army twice engaged him in battles and declared victory. "We knew about Sadr before the war," one officer said. "But it was not clear how much influence he would have. He's very young, with unimpressive religious credentials. He's basically living on the reputation of his father," a slain leading Shi'ite cleric.

Bulking up
With pressure to do more of the fighting, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki plans to increase the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) by nearly 20,000, according the U.S. command in Baghdad.

The plan had been for 325,000 army, police and other forces. The army number will be increased by 18,700, the command said, at the expense of the Iraqi government. The Pentagon so far has received $8 billion from Congress to build the ISF. The increase breaks down to three new divisions, five new brigades and 20 battalions, plus one additional special operations battalion.

Al Qaeda goal
Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader revealed last year that forcing the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq was one of two short-term goals of the terrorist organization, a goal shared with many U.S. opponents of the Iraq war.

"The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority as soon as the country is freed from the Americans does not depend on force alone," Ayman al-Zawahri wrote to Abu Musab Zarqawi in a letter dated July 9, 2005.

Al-Zawahri directed his al Qaeda leader in Iraq to prepare for co-opting the post-American government in Iraq by using political action along with military attacks so that al Qaeda could set up or co-opt the new regime and direct it to becoming an Islamist state.

"Things may develop faster than we imagine," al-Zawahri stated. "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents is noteworthy. Because of that, we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us, and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the United Nations and their plans to fill the void behind them. We must take the initiative and impose a fait accompli upon our enemies, instead of the enemy imposing one on us, wherein our lot would be to merely resist their schemes."

  • 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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