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April 13, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq-al Qaeda ties
Eric Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy, has written a harsh critique of a recently declassified Pentagon inspector general report. The rebuttal is contained in the appendix of the IG report that criticized the alternative, pre-Iraq war intelligence assessment done by a Pentagon policy group on ties between Iraq and al Qaeda as "inappropriate."

Mr. Edelman stated that the policy group's work on the issue was not only appropriate and legal, but directed by both former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"Apart from the numerous factual inaccuracies, omissions and mischaracterizations identified throughout these comments, the [IG] report suffers from a basic analytical flaw in attempting to paint the work under review as 'inappropriate' even though no laws were broken, no DoD directives were violated and no applicable policies were disregarded," Mr. Edelman wrote in his counter to the February IG report made public April 5.

The IG report "concedes that the activities reviewed were lawful. It concedes that the activities were authorized indeed requested by the deputy secretary of defense and secretary of defense," he stated.

Mr. Edelman's rebuttal also highlighted the known links between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda terrorists that, while indirect, are indisputable and which were omitted by the IG in his report.

They include the CIA judgment of June 21, 2002, of the "murky" ties, and the CIA memo of Aug. 20, 2002, that stated, "Saddam and bin Laden are not natural partners, but have maintained cautious contacts and some shared training."

One footnote in the report updates the conclusion of indirect links. It stated that postwar questioning of Saddam, his foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, intelligence chief Barazan Ibrahim and senior al Qaeda captive Abu Faraj confirmed that "Iraq and al Qaeda did not cooperate in all categories," but supports the policy group's conclusion of cooperation in some areas. Mr. Edelman also quoted former CIA Director George J. Tenet telling Congress in 2002 and 2003 that "we have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade," and that "credible information indicates that Iraq and al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression." That reporting, Mr. Tenet said, "also stated that Iraq has provided training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases, and making conventional bombs."

The report also provides some new information on the purported meeting between lead September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmad al-Ani in March 2001 in Prague.

It stated that Atta used a vehicle for one Prague meeting that was registered to an agent of the Baghdad-based Abu Nidal Organization (ANO). The link is significant because in 1998, bin Laden met with the head of the ANO and agreed to provide financial assistance to the group "in return for unspecified assistance to al Qaeda."

The report said the ANO responded "expeditiously and fully" to Iraqi government directives and that the link "suggests ANO functions to serve Iraqi objectives and that Iraq is aware of ANO ties to al Qaeda."

Doubts by U.S. intelligence reports on the Atta-al-Ani meeting were contrasted by Mr. Edelman, who noted that "the Czech intelligence service firmly stood by its report" that the Iraqi met the al Qaeda plotter.

The IG report was released by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who defense officials say for years has quietly recruited agents within the Pentagon inspector general's office to produce reports and audits sympathetic to the liberal Michigan Democrat's views.

Gates on supplemental
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, that the Army will begin curtailing training and repairs unless the $100 billion supplemental war-funding bill is passed quickly.

"While some have suggested that the Army can operate this year until July with existing resources and authorities, in reality there are significant limits, costs and disruptions associated with the budgetary maneuvers necessary to continue Army operations," Mr. Gates stated, noting that shifting funds from other Pentagon accounts will not meet the funding shortfall.

"Consequently, actions similar to last year are already being initiated by the Army and will accelerate," Mr. Gates said.

Specifically, the Army will begin reducing Army "quality of life" programs, such as housing and other facilities upgrades, reducing repair and maintenance on equipment needed for pre-deployment training, and curbing training of Army Guard and Reserve units in the United States.

By mid-May, additional actions could include limiting equipment overhaul work that will worsen equipment problems; limiting training for combat troops; and delaying needed reforms in Army brigades that could reduce stress on existing units, Mr. Gates said.

"If the fiscal year 2007 supplemental legislation is not enacted soon, the Army faces a real and serious funding problem that will require increasingly disruptive and costly measures to be initiated measures that will, inevitably, negatively impact readiness and Army personnel and their families," he said.

China ASAT threat
Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and specialist on China, stated in recent testimony to a congressional commission that China's military has produced public writings advocating "covert deployment of a sophisticated anti-satellite weapon system to be used against the United States in a surprise manner without warning."

"In my view, even a small-scale anti-satellite attack in a crisis against 50 U.S. satellites -- assuming a mix of targeted military reconnaissance, navigation satellites and communication satellites -- could have a catastrophic effect not only on U.S. military forces, but on the U.S. civilian economy," Mr. Pillsbury said in recent testimony to the U.S. China Economic Security Review Commission.

Mr. Pillsbury called for the Pentagon to establish a dialogue with Chinese military specialists who have written about the anti-satellite weapons, noting that for the past decade the Chinese have refused to give visiting military or defense specialists access to the ASAT weapons developers.

Mr. Pillsbury said tighter U.S. export controls on China might "impede China's potential acquisition of anti-satellite systems."

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

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