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January 19, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

American terrorists
Intelligence sources tell us several Americans or at least people holding U.S. passports were captured among the 6,000 Islamists fighting on behalf of the ousted Islamic Courts Union (ICU) during the ongoing conflict in Somalia.

The American passport holders are being held and interrogated in Kenya. According to our sources, one of the American Islamists had received pilot training in the past, an indication that he may be a terrorist who could be used in a future al Qaeda operation to hijack an aircraft and use it as a missile, as occurred during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The recent fighting by Ethiopian and transitional federal government forces against the partially ruling ICU forced thousands of Islamist fighters of the ICU to move south to Kismayo and Ras Kamboni, on the Kenyan border.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony last week that Ethiopian forces were in hot pursuit of the Islamists.

"Ethiopia likely intends to eliminate as many of the radical Islamists and their camps as possible before withdrawing," Gen. Maples said.

He said "multiple reports" from the region indicate "the presence of foreign trainers in Somalia from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula."

"Al Qaeda is assessed to be assisting the radical Islamist elements of the [ICU] with leadership and training with hopes of establishing a future Talibanlike state," he said.

Iranian EFPs
As part of its new policy of trying to get tough on foreign interference in Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials recently disclosed to the Senate intelligence committee some details of the Iranian role.

Iranian paramilitary troops and intelligence agents have been supplying Iraqi Shi'ite insurgents with "explosive-formed projectiles" or as the military calls them, EFPs. The shaped charges are designed to penetrate hardened targets by focusing the power of their explosives. They were built for anti-tank missiles and nuclear weapons detonation.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said U.S. military personnel believe "Iran is supplying devices that are now killing our courageous troops." He asked Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte about the Iranian EFPs that are being used in Shi'ite areas of Iraq. Mr. Negroponte responded that the explanation of the Iranian shaped charges is "generally true."

CIA Director Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden also said: "That's very consistent, senator, with our analysis. We believe that to be true. The EFPs are coming from Iran. They are being used against our forces. They are capable of defeating some of our heaviest armor, and incident for incident cause significantly more casualties than any other improvised explosive devices do, and they are provided to Shi'ite militia. That's all correct."

Sick call
An internal Pentagon briefing chart shows that sick call is a major operation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the span of January 2005 to November 2006, doctors and medics treated more than 80,000 troops on an outpatient basis. That's about half the total force in both countries.

The sick call roster breaks down this way: disease: 50,205; non-battle injuries: 26,476; battle injuries: 2,131; and nonspecific complaints: 1,636.

During that same period, there were 222 cases of psychoses and 190 of depressive disorder.

In Afghanistan, the No. 1 complaint is respiratory disorder. In Iraq, it's back pain.

Best behavior
Air Force headquarters is warning airmen not to pose in the nude.

The message was sent last week after Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart posed nude for Playboy Magazine's February issue. She informed superiors ahead of time. They found a copy, opened it and promptly suspended her from her instructor's job at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

"This action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do," the message said. "As America's airmen, it is imperative that we maintain the moral high ground. Our nation depends on it."

The Associated Press reports Sgt. Manhart "is photographed in uniform yelling and holding weapons under the headline 'Tough Love.' The following pages show her partially clothed, wearing her dog tags while working out, as well as completely nude."

DSS report wrong
The Defense Security Service (DSS) this week corrected its annual report on foreign technology spying trends. It said a report stating Canadian coins were outfitted with transmitters and planted on travelers was wrong.

"This statement was based on a report provided to DSS," the service said in a statement. "The allegations, however, were found later to be unsubstantiated following an investigation into the matter."

The service is conducting an internal review.

The Washington Times first reported Jan. 3 that, according to the 2006 report, "several U.S. defense contractors have reported that between October 2005 and January 2006 they found radio-frequency transmitters hidden in Canadian coins that were planted on them after they traveled through Canada."

Attack foiled
Lars Larson, nationally syndicated radio host, yesterday pointed out news from Afghanistan about two brave freedom fighters.

The U.S. command said two Afghan security personnel prevented a terrorist in a bomb-affixed car from penetrating Camp Phoenix in the capital of Kabul.

"Without any regard for their personal safety, a local Afghan security officer and an interpreter immediately recognized that this was a terrorist attack," said 1st Lt. Cathrin Fraker, a spokeswoman for Task Force Phoenix.

"Together, the two prevented the driver from detonating his explosives after they failed to explode during the crash. With the assistance of the U.S. security forces, they dragged the terrorist from the vehicle, where U.S. security force soldiers then detained him," she said, according to a military press release.

U.S. and Afghan personnel sealed off the area as a demolition team arrived. The bomb exploded during the disarming, but no one was hurt. Said Mr. Larson, "It's a great story. I think the president ought to give these guys medals."

  • 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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