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November 30, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

China in Afghanistan
Pentagon officials now say the Afghan government's recent decision to award a copper mining contract to a Chinese company is worse than first reported.

It turns out NASA and the Pentagon helped locate the copper mine and other valuable resources with the help of a converted bomber called a WB-57. Since late 2006, the survey jet has been conducting high-level aerial-mapping missions in search of resources.

Defense officials say the NASA and Pentagon mappers discovered large mineral deposits, including copper, throughout the country, and supplied the maps to the new Afghan government.

As reported in this space last week, Pentagon officials were angered that the Bush administration allowed the Afghan government to award a huge mining contract to the state-run China Metallurgical Group Corp. to develop the Aynak mine, in Logar province south of Kabul.

Press reports said the mine initially was started under Soviet occupation in the 1980s, but defense officials said its resources were pinpointed by NASA, making the Chinese concession a benefit of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Officials said there are reports from Afghanistan that the Chinese paid bribes to Afghan officials in order to get the contract over bids made by U.S., Canadian and Australian companies.

State Department officials say the awarding of the contract to the Chinese company, valued at some $3 billion, shows that the government of Hamid Karzai is not in the pocket of the U.S.

Defense officials are upset that the Afghan government was not pressured to at least pick a company from a country that has sent troops who are fighting and dying to rid Afghanistan of extremists.

The mapping was carried out under an agreement between the U.S. Geological Survey and Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines. A NASA spokesman said the State Department authorized the "nationwide geochemical and geophysical" mapping in support of U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Trade and Development Agency programs to search for oil and gas, water and coal, and to conduct earthquake hazard assessments.

The idea is that if those resources are developed, it will reduce Afghanistan's reliance on opium farming.

China power struggle
Yesterday's backtracking by Beijing on why it denied access to Hong Kong for a Thanksgiving port call by the USS Kitty Hawk left U.S. defense and national security officials more concerned about the factions within China's communist system, which is dominated by the Chinese military on foreign affairs.

One defense official said there appear to be serious differences between the Chinese military and Chinese President Hu Jintao that may originate in political dispute between Mr. Hu and former Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who was forced into retirement last month.

Mr. Zeng, a protege of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, is said to have strong ties to China's powerful military, which may favor him over Mr. Hu.

"The PLA seems to have a lot of power not to inform or get permission from Hu," said the official, referring to the People's Liberation Army, China's name for the military.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday denied that its foreign minister told President Bush that the ship visit was blocked because of a misunderstanding. The White House said it is seeking clarification.

Army-Navy game
Senior Navy and Army officials are parking their professional commitment to "jointness" the term for the cooperation among the services mandated by the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act in time to root for their academy football teams this weekend.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, took time during a press conference this week to discuss, tongue in cheek, the "serious" subject of the annual Army-Navy game. Kickoff is tomorrow in Baltimore.

"I am very much a disciple of the Goldwater-Nichols bill and the dramatic improvements it has made in our military's ability to fight and win," the 1971 Naval Academy graduate said. "However, this Saturday it all goes into a cocked hat when Navy will run roughshod over Army. ... Goldwater-Nichols doesn't count this coming Saturday. And I'm sure you will all be on the Navy side for this very important engagement."

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, a 1974 West Point graduate, is rooting for Army.

"As Admiral Keating notes, however, on Saturday, we will all respectfully take off our purple hats and put Goldwater-Nichols on hold for a few hours to root for the academy of our service," he said. "And there should be no doubt that I will be rooting, along with tens of thousands of soldiers here in Iraq, for the Black Knights of Army, with our Beat Navy! banners held high."

After the game, "of course, we will put our joint hats back on and resume operations against extremists together with our Air Force comrades and with our shipmates and Marines of the Department of the Navy," he said in an e-mail to Inside the Ring.

Honoring Kelley
The CIA recently did the right thing, somewhat belatedly, by honoring retired CIA counterintelligence officer Brian Kelley with the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, along with apologies to him and his family for the pain of being falsely accused of being a Moscow spy.

Mr. Kelley was investigated for 18 months by FBI agents who falsely accused him and refused to believe his claims that he was not a "mole" in U.S. intelligence working for the KGB and later the SVR, as Moscow's spy agency is now called.

FBI investigators hounded Mr. Kelley, his relatives and his aging mother in their search for the mole. It took the FBI $5 million and a KGB defector's tape recording to discover that the mole was FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen.

"The ceremony two weeks ago was exceptionally meaningful for family and friends," Mr. Kelley said of the award event at CIA headquarters hosted by Deputy CIA Director Stephen R. Kappes.

Several CIA officers spoke before a crowd of intelligence specialists from the Pentagon, National Security Agency and other services.

Mr. Kelley came under suspicion after FBI counterspies falsely assumed that an FBI agent would never betray his country. They focused on Mr. Kelley after he discovered a secret method used by Moscow to communicate with deep cover "illegal" officers posted abroad, which led to the discovery of State Department spy Felix Bloch, who was tipped off by Hanssen, scuttling the 1989 spy probe of Bloch.

Mr. Kelley said the ceremony served a dual purpose of recognizing the great suffering of him and his family, and "to get the apologies which they gratefully accepted and for me to recognize so many people in and out of the [intelligence community] who reached out to me in my hour of need."

The 2005 book "Enemies," by this reporter, contains a full report on the his ordeal, Mr. Kelley said.

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

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