Return to

August 24, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

CIA-military relations
The CIA inspector general report made public this week sheds light on the often-contentious relations between CIA officers and the U.S. military, which were a major problem before the September 11 terror attacks.

The report from 2005 stated that U.S. military officials were "reluctant" to use forces in CIA-led operations against al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan before September 11.

"At least in part this was the result of the [intelligence community's] inability to provide the necessary intelligence to support military operations," the report stated.

"The agency was unable to satisfy the demands of the U.S. military for precise, actionable intelligence that the military leadership required in order to deploy U.S. troops in the ground in Afghanistan, or to launch cruise missile attacks against [Osama bin Laden]-related sites beyond the August 1998 retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan."

The CIA also clashed with the Pentagon over the costs of replacing Predator drone aircraft in Afghanistan, the report stated.

The inspector general, based on a review by a team of specialists, called the CIA's handling of its ties to the military "responsible" and "within the bounds of what was reasonable and possible."

Since the September 11 attacks, CIA-military relations have improved and are a top priority of CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

"In Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, the fact of the matter is that there is unprecedented cooperation and collaboration in terms of identifying, locating and disrupting terrorists," Mr. Mansfield said. "CIA and the military have their own mandates, targets and capabilities, but we work closely together, both here and in the field. All of us recognize that such cooperation is key to preventing terrorist attacks and saving lives."

Morally bruising war
The general in charge of U.S. Central Command Marines praised Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt in dropping all charges against him this month in the shooting deaths of four Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005.

"The experience in combat is difficult to understand intellectually and very difficult to appreciate emotionally," stated Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commander, in a letter dismissing all charges against the corporal without prejudice on Aug. 8.

Gen. Mattis quoted former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that combat is an "incommunicable experience" and that "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an uplifted knife."

"Marines have a well-earned reputation for remaining cool in the face of enemies brandishing much more than knives," Gen. Mattis said, noting the "brutal reality" of daily life in Iraq.

"Where the enemy disregards any attempt to comply with ethical norms of warfare, we exercise discipline and restraint to protect the innocent caught on the battlefield. Our way is right, but it is also difficult."

Gen. Mattis stated that an exhaustive investigation showed Cpl. Sharratt "acted in accordance with the rules of engagement" in Haditha, and he noted that by dropping the charges, Cpl. Sharratt could "fairly conclude that you did your best to live up to the standards followed by U.S. fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions made by in a matter of seconds in combat."

The three-star general put the current conflict in context by noting that in Iraq "our nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people, does not comply with any aspect of the law of war, and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire toward civilians.

"As you well know, the challenges of this combat environment put extreme pressures on you and your fellow Marines," he said. "Operational, moral and legal imperatives demand that we Marines stay true to our own standards and maintain compliance with the law of war in this morally bruising environment." Gen. Mattis' letter contrasts sharply with comments made in May 2006 by Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, who accused the Marines in Haditha of killing Iraqis "in cold blood" and then covering up the purported atrocity.

Cpl. Sharratt was investigated after Iraqi civilians said he and another Marine executed four Iraqis during a search of a house in Haditha. Investigators later determined that he and another Marine acted in self-defense after one of the men pointed an AK-47 rifle at Cpl. Sharratt from the house.

Irregular warfare
The Air Force just published its new doctrine statement for the war on terrorism, formally identifying how it wages "irregular warfare" and traditional war fighting.

The doctrine is part of the service's effort to find its niche in what has been largely a ground forces conflict against al Qaeda terrorists and extremists worldwide and insurgents in Iraq.

In an appendix on understanding insurgencies, the report notes that they share common characteristics, including the use of religion. "Insurgent groups often employ religion as a basis to portray their movement favorably and mobilize followers in pursuit of their political goals," the report said, noting the Marxist-led Provisional Irish Republican Army "frequently used Roman Catholic iconography in its publications and proclamations, although many of its members were not devout Catholics."

Regarding al Qaeda, religious ideology is the source of the group's political goals as it seeks to "re-establish a worldwide Muslim Caliphate."

"For many Muslims, this invokes the golden age of Islamic civilization and helps mobilize support for al Qaeda among some of the most traditional Muslims while concealing the fact that al Qaeda's leaders envision the 'restored Caliphate' as a totalitarian state similar to the pre-2002 Taliban regime in Afghanistan," the report stated.

Highlighting the difficulty for governments engaged in irregular warfare, the report states that countering insurgents involves both a political struggle and violent conflict.

"Insurgents win when they prevail in only one of these two struggles; the government on the other hand must win both struggles or they lose," the report stated.

NRO director
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spokesman Rick Oborn wrote to correct last week's column that misidentified the first name of the current NRO director. He is Donald M. Kerr, currently the nominee to be the deputy director of national intelligence.

  • Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    2006 Columns
    2007 Columns
    Return to