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April 25, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

French, Germans banned
The Pentagon and U.S. military have not forgotten how France and Germany obstructed U.S. efforts to use diplomacy and then force against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Now that a combat victory has been achieved, it is payback time.

A senior military officer tells us that the governments of France and Germany will be welcome to participate in rebuilding liberated Iraq. But their militaries will not.

"No French or German military personnel will be allowed to set foot in Iraq," the senior officer said.

Defense officials tell us the prohibition on French and Germans is a private policy and one not likely to be found on any paper in the offices of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld or Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The ban is likely to remain in place for at least the first 12 months of stabilization efforts, when the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Relief will play the dominant role in post-Saddam Iraq.

France has been quietly lobbying behind the scenes to have all contracts carried out under the United Nations' oil-for-food program, which enriched Saddam and the French.

Pentagon officials, however, said the oil-for-food program will be disbanded once U.N. sanctions are lifted.

Army chief
Mr. Rumsfeld this week stepped up his search to find a new Army chief of staff, after the man picked for the job bowed out.

The Army vice chief, Gen. John M. Keane, was tentatively picked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff post. But Gen. Keane decided to retire to spend more time with his family, defense sources say.

Insiders say Mr. Rumsfeld discussed candidates during meetings with his military and civilian advisers this week. Sources say he has thrown out a wide search net, including consideration of two-, three- and four-star generals, as well as retired officers.

Among names circulating in the Pentagon are Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom; Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, Gen. Franks' deputy commander; and Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the coalition forces land-component commander.

Some Army officials believe Mr. Rumsfeld should offer the job to Gen. Franks "as a way of expressing gratitude," a source said, for the victory over Saddam's regime.

Our contacts say Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, an attack helicopter aviator who serves as deputy chief of staff, is the leading contender to be the next Army vice chief of staff.

The term of the current chief, Gen. Eric Shinseki, expires in June.

New Chinfo
The Navy's new chief of information, or Chinfo, has been selected and defense sources tell us he is Navy Capt. T.L. McCreary. Capt. McCreary is the director of public affairs for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He was a key architect of the highly successful program of embedding reporters with the troops. The new job comes with a promotion to one-star admiral rank.

Capt. McCreary will replace Rear Adm. Steve Pietropaoli as Chinfo. A formal announcement is expected in the next several weeks.

Both Capt. McCreary and Adm. Pietropaoli declined to comment, noting that promotion selections are secret until formally announced.

More Chinooks
The Army has given way to the in-vogue Special Operations Forces (SOF) on the issue of buying the workhorse Chinook helicopter.

U.S. Special Operations urgently wants to buy a high-tech model, the MH-47G, for its worldwide anti-terrorism role. Commandos found the 48-troop-capacity Chinook indispensable in Afghanistan. It was the only chopper that could work at high altitude and bring in sufficient troops to battle al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas.

SOF has 34 Chinooks and is eyeing a fleet of two battalions totaling about 70 aircraft for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky.

But there was a rub. The Army also wants 300 modernized CH-47 Chinooks. The Boeing Rotorcraft Systems plant in Pennsylvania can either produce one or the other. So the Army is willing to wait while the factory produces the first batch of MH-47Gs. The model comes off the line with special night-fighting and navigation equipment for low-level infiltration.

"The 47E has really come to the forefront during Afghanistan as a critical piece of equipment for our [infiltrations] and [exfiltrations]. And today, they are employed all over Iraq and Afghanistan," Army Lt. Gen. Doug Brown, deputy chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Saudi versatility
The war in Iraq has given the Air Force confidence that it can run air operations in the Persian Gulf even if Saudi Arabia one day kicks the United States out of Prince Sultan Air Base.

For Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force ran air missions out of the ultramodern Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Prince Sultan.

A month before the war began March 19, the Air Force opened up a backup CAOC at al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on the Persian Gulf. The Qatar CAOC ran air missions over Afghanistan, while the older CAOC in Saudi Arabia orchestrated more than 45,000 sorties over Iraq.

Those operations are being moved back to Saudi Arabia. But in its first realistic test, the Qatar CAOC showed that it can run operations Gulfwide. And it sits in a country that is not ashamed to display its support for a robust U.S. military presence in the region.

If Saudi Arabia finds it necessary to close down Prince Sultan one day owing to political reasons, the Air Force can switch operations to al Udeid merely by picking up the phone.

Saudi versatility II
The Saudis allowed allied jets to do more from Prince Sultan Air Base than originally thought.

Since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the Saudi rule has been this: Its bases can be used to launch support aircraft, such as refueling tankers, or to enforce the southern no-fly zone. But no strike aircraft may use a Saudi base to bomb Iraq.

That rule wasbent a bit for this war. The Saudis did allow F-16CGs to use Prince Sultan.

The fighters carry Harm missiles and satellite-guided bombs to take down enemy radar, which in effect makes them a strike-support jet fighter.

A Democrat
Another sign came this week that retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark plans to run as a Democrat if he seeks political office.

The former NATO commander hosted a panel discussion at Georgetown University on postwar Iraq.

The session turned out to be several hours of intense bashing of President Bush.

Rummy traveling
We hear that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will make his first trip to the Persian Gulf region soon, maybe as early as next week. He is likely to visit Doha, Qatar, to confer with Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also meet with retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the interim civilian administrator in Iraq.

  • 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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