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March 15, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Gardez report
The just-concluded battle of Gardez, Afghanistan, demonstrated the power of combined arms, the professionalism of young Army infantrymen participating in their first combat, and the stupidity of al Qaeda fighters holed up in caves in the area south of Gardez. That's the appraisal of an American military officer who took part in the two-week clash.

"Part of the light infantry usefulness is that it appears that the al-Qaeda pride just can't abide our guys on their turf, so we make effective 'bait,' pulling the bad guys out of their holes," the officer said in a report to colleagues, describing the first use of conventional ground troops in the war in Afghanistan.

"However, because they are not so smart, they try to attack uphill to the ground we own, and between direct and indirect [mortars and close air support] fires we absolutely chew them up. In a one-on-one fight our soldiers are better trained and equipped and work together well which gives us the advantage now that we control the high ground. Couple that with all the technological advantages we bring to the battlefield and it is not a fair fight, which is just the way we like it.

"The enemy is motivated, but not well trained. Once we either blow up their first string mortars or force them to displace from known positions, they have become ineffective because they do not have the training/equipment to use their mortars accurately from an unknown spot, where they have not registered their fires. Anytime they try to do this from a new spot we are on them [mortars leave a big thermal signature] and they are toast.

"Anyway, as I am sure you do not, don't listen to the doomsayers in the press. It seems they would like nothing better than for us to suffer a resounding defeat, but it just ain't gonna happen. Our guys are good and have more guts."

The Pentagon is rushing to produce a new and bigger bunker-buster bomb for use against hardened targets, like some of the underground hide-outs used by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Pentagon sources tell us the new bomb is being developed for the Air Force by Northrop Grumman Corp. in California and is called Big BLU for bomb live unit. The new bomb will be bigger and more powerful than the new BLU-118 thermobaric warhead dropped on caves in Afghanistan recently.

Big BLU, we are told, will be six times bigger than the F-15E-carried thermobaric bomb and will be packed with some 30,000 pounds of high explosive. It will be guided to targets by satellite and will sport a cobalt-alloy penetrating warhead that allows the bomb to dive up to 100 feet below the surface before detonating.

The bombs are so big that it will take a B-2 bomber to carry one of them, we are told. Three Big BLUs have been ordered by the Air Force on an urgent basis.

Bin Laden's DNA
Intelligence officials tell us it would be next to impossible to collect DNA samples for all senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

But one DNA sample is in hand, we are told. Months ago, the U.S. government obtained a sample of DNA from a family member of Osama bin Laden.

The collection ensures that if bin Laden is killed and his remains are found, Washington can prove that it killed the world's most wanted terrorist. Senior officials only reluctantly discuss the matter, and would not say when and from whom the sample was taken. The fear is someone in bin Laden's al Qaeda network would kill any family member who cooperated with U.S. authorities.

"We don't want to release any information that could get someone in trouble," an official said.

The CIA first thought it may have killed bin Laden on Feb. 4, when a Predator-launched Hellfire missile struck a tall man in the Zhawar Kili terrorist camp in eastern Afghanistan. But there have been no intelligence reports to confirm the dead man's identity. A senior military official told The Washington Times he believed the CIA-controlled Hellfire killed an al Qaeda financial director.

Bin Laden dead?
U.S. intelligence agencies are still at a loss to determine what happened to Osama bin Laden, the man blamed for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

One recent classified report from Southwest Asia stated that bin Laden died from unspecified causes and his body was cut into pieces and tossed into a body of water.

The report is among the hundreds of intelligence reports that reach Washington every day on bin Laden, who, despite public comments to the contrary, remains the biggest prize in the war on terrorism.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is said to be unhappy with the quality of intelligence reporting on bin Laden. He remarked recently that the Pentagon has been getting numerous reports about the terrorist leader. "It's all specific. Most of it's wrong, but it's all specific," he said in January.

Microsoft targeted
U.S. intelligence officials said Islamic terrorists have picked economic-warfare targets inside the United States. This includes intelligence that al Qaeda terrorists plan to attack Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

The data were among information found during military operations inside Afghanistan.

Microsoft's sprawling "campus" is located west of Seattle and includes 47 buildings with a combined 5.3 million square feet of office space. The company's revenue last year was $25.3 billion.

"This would clearly be economic warfare" by al Qaeda terrorists, said one official familiar with reports of the threats.

Microsoft spokesman Michael Yaeger had no immediate comment on the threat.

Other targets in the Seattle area include facilities of the defense contractor Boeing Co., the Navy's Bangor submarine base and the Space Needle.

As the carrier USS Kennedy neared its launch point off the coast of Pakistan, its commanding officer, Capt. Ronald "Harvard" Henderson, delivered an impassioned speech to pump up his sailors. The former F-18 pilot is a Harvard graduate.

The crew probably needed it. The Kennedy's deployment has been marked by setbacks and problems. First, the Navy denied it access to Vieques island, even though the top Marine Corps and Navy officers asked permission for the battle group to train in Puerto Rico. Then, the ship flunked an inspection. The marks were so poor that the Navy fired the captain and appointed Capt. Henderson as the successor. Once the carrier was at sea, an F-14 Tomcat pilot was killed when his jet crashed into the water on takeoff.

"Make no mistake this is a fight for Western civilization," the captain told his crew. "If these monsters are not destroyed, they will destroy us, and our children and children's children will live in fear forever. America is the only nation that can stop them and destroy them. Only America has the strength of character and the vast resources to hunt these fanatics down anywhere in the world.

"We have friends and allies, but we are the leaders of the world our forefathers made and died for. Our Naval power has been the principal weapon of our resolve. Great ships and great crews have gone before us Enterprise, Carl Vinson, Kitty Hawk, Teddy Roosevelt, John Stennis. Tonight, our enemies will feel the power of USS John F. Kennedy. It is now our turn to strike for justice and we will strike hard."

  • 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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