Archive for the ‘National Security Council’ Category

Preparing for a New President: U.S. reviewing Afghanistan policy

November 6, 2008

The Bush administration is making plans for the transition of management of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to the next president.

By Peter Bergen
CNN national security analyst

A review of Afghan policy has been under way for many weeks, led by Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the senior National Security Council official responsible for Afghanistan and Iraq. The classified strategic review is expected to be completed this week, according to a staffer involved in preparing it.

Military and administration sources say the review was commissioned after growing alarm in the Bush White House about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has recently seen more U.S. military deaths than in Iraq.

The country has experienced a sharp spike in violence along its eastern border with Pakistan since the summer. Those officials say the Bush administration felt that the review of Afghan policy could not wait months for a new administration to get up to speed.

In mid-October, senior Bush administration officials briefed advisers to both John McCain and Barack Obama on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The meeting was held at the private Army and Navy Club in Washington and was organized, in part, by Barnett Rubin, a professor at New York University and one of the country’s leading experts on Afghanistan. The tone of the meeting was described by one participant as “realistic” and “certainly not upbeat.”

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/11/05/bergen.iraq.afghanistan
/index.html?section=cnn_latest

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Top U.S. Officer in Mideast Resigns

March 12, 2008

By Thomas E. Ricks 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008; Page A01

The top U.S. commander in the Middle East, whose views on strategy in the region have put him at odds with the Bush administration, abruptly announced his resignation yesterday, calling reports of such disagreements an untenable “distraction.”

Adm. William J. “Fox” Fallon became head of U.S. Central Command last March, putting him ostensibly in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he clashed frequently with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, over strategy and troop levels, Pentagon officials said. Though technically Fallon’s subordinate, Petraeus has more experience in Iraq and has forged a strong connection with President Bush.
Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U. S. Central Command, ...
Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U. S. Central Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in this May 3, 2007 file photo. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday, March 11, 2008, that Fallon is resigning.
(AP Photo/Dennis Cook)  

Fallon, 63, had made several comments reflecting disagreement with the administration’s stance on Iran, most recently in an Esquire magazine article last week that portrayed him as the only person who might stop Bush from going to war with the Islamic republic.

“Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time,” Fallon said in a statement. Though he denied that any discrepancies exist, he said “it would be best to step aside and allow” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction.”

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in February 2008, ...
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in February 2008, chose not to comment Monday on a magazine article that says the commander of US forces in the Middle East may soon be replaced because of his opposition to war with
Iran.  Gates suffered a shoulder injury this winter when he slipped on ice ourside his Washington DC home.
(AFP/File/Raveendran)


Fallon is expected to step down at the end of the month, after barely a year in his position, and just eight days before Petraeus is scheduled to testify before Congress about conditions in Iraq. Military officers said it appeared that it was made clear to Fallon that nobody would object if he stepped down.

Admiral Fallon reached this difficult decision entirely on his own,” Gates said yesterday in an unscheduled news conference. He added: “I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy.”

The defense secretary also praised Fallon’s abilities as a strategist, even though it was the admiral’s strategic views that seemed to trouble the administration. “He is enormously talented and very experienced, and he does have a strategic vision that is rare,” Gates said.

The Esquire article, written by Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former Naval War College professor, asserted that if Fallon left his job anytime soon, it could signal that Bush intends to go to war with Iran. Asked about that yesterday, Gates called it “just ridiculous.”

Several Democrats were quick to accuse the administration of not tolerating dissent. “It’s distressing that Admiral Fallon feels he had to step down,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). “President Bush’s oft-repeated claim that he follows the advice of his commanders on the ground rings hollow if our commanders don’t feel free to disagree with the president.” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) asked whether Fallon’s resignation is a reflection that the administration is hostile to “the frank, open airing of experts’ views.”

A likely successor to Fallon is Petraeus, some defense experts said. The general could be promoted to the Centcom post and replaced in Baghdad by Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who until last month was Petraeus’s deputy in Iraq. Odierno, who has been nominated to become Army vice chief of staff, developed a strong working relationship with Petraeus.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, center, ...
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, center, arrives for a youth soccer tournament in central Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 1, 2008. Gen. Petraeus will ask President Bush to wait until as late as September to decide when to bring home more troops than already scheduled, a senior administration official said Friday.
(AP photo/Dusan Vranic)
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Another possible successor mentioned yesterday is Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of Special Operations in Iraq. McChrystal recently was nominated to be director of the staff of the Joint Chiefs, a key Pentagon position.On Iraq, Fallon butted heads with Petraeus over the past year, arguing for a more rapid drawdown of U.S. troops and a swifter transition to Iraqi security forces. Fallon even carried out his own review of the conduct of the war — a move that surprised many Pentagon officials, in part because Odierno and Petraeus had already revamped U.S. strategy in Iraq and, with Bush’s approval, had implemented a buildup of about 30,000 additional troops, moving them off big bases and deploying them among the Iraqi population.

In the Esquire article, Fallon contends that Iraq was consuming excessive U.S. attention. In a part of the world with “five or six pots boiling over,” he is quoted as saying, “our nation can’t afford to be mesmerized by one problem.”

The article was “definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a retired general said, especially because of its “extraordinarily flip, damning and insulting” tone. He noted that since it appeared last week, it has been the talk of military circles, where it was expected that Fallon would be disciplined.
 
Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
Adm. William J. Fallon, left, in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2007.

Fallon, one of the last Vietnam veterans in the U.S. military, was the first Navy officer selected to lead Centcom, a role traditionally granted to Army and Marine generals such as H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Tommy R. Franks and Anthony C. Zinni. One reason he was chosen to replace Army Gen. John P. Abizaid was because the administration — dealing with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a diplomatic crisis over Iran’s nuclear program — wanted a seasoned officer who could step into the job quickly, without having to learn the ropes of top command, according to a person involved in his selection.

As a veteran of Pacific Command, where he focused on dealing with the rise of China, Fallon was seen as someone who would be comfortable operating at the highest levels of diplomacy and politics. He had told colleagues that he viewed Iran as a problem similar to China — one that mainly required steady engagement rather than aggressive confrontation. That stance put him at odds with Iran hawks both inside and outside the administration.

Peter D. Feaver, a former staff member of Bush’s National Security Council, said that the public nature of Fallon’s remarks made it necessary for the admiral to step down. “There is ample room for military leaders to debate administration policy behind closed doors,” said Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University. “However, taking such arguments into the media would violate basic democratic norms of civil-military relations.”

But Richard Danzig, who served as Navy secretary from 1998 to 2001 and has known Fallon for 15 years, said Fallon’s departure will leave a significant hole in a critical region. “Any turnover in Centcom has real costs, because this is an arena in the world, more than others, that depends a lot on relationships and extensive periods of conversation and mutual understanding,” he said.

That might prove especially true in Pakistan. Fallon had become a point man for crucial military relations there as the Pentagon implements a stepped-up program to help Pakistani forces deal with Islamic extremism along the border with Afghanistan. In visits to Islamabad in November and January, he cemented ties with Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the new armed forces chief of staff. The administration hopes that Kiyani will keep the military out of Pakistani politics while showing new aggression toward al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Afghan border.

Fallon’s departure also reflects Gates’s management style. During his 15 months at the Pentagon, the defense secretary has shown a willingness to move decisively in cases of internal conflict. A career intelligence officer, he demanded the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey last year because of the way he handled the fallout from reports about substandard care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Gates also declined to nominate Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a second two-year term, amid concerns that a Democratic-controlled Congress would grill Pace on Iraq.

Yesterday, Gates said the perception that Fallon disagreed with the administration’s policies was enough to concern Fallon that he may no longer be effective in the region. Gates quoted Fallon as saying that the situation was “embarrassing.”

Staff writers Josh White, Karen DeYoung and Peter Baker contributed to this report.

Related:
Admiral William Fallon Resigns as U.S. Mideast Military Chief

Esquire Magazine on Admiral William “Fox” Fallon

Ex-Defense Official Assails Colleagues Over Run-Up to War

March 9, 2008

By Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 9, 2008; Page A01

In the first insider account of Pentagon decision-making on Iraq, one of the key architects of the war blasts former secretary of state Colin Powell, the CIA, retired Gen. Tommy R. Franks and former Iraq occupation chief L. Paul Bremer for mishandling the run-up to the invasion and the subsequent occupation of the country.

Douglas J. Feith, in a massive score-settling work, portrays an intelligence community and a State Department that repeatedly undermined plans he developed as undersecretary of defense for policy and conspired to undercut President Bush‘s policies. 

Among the disclosures made by Feith in “War and Decision,” scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush’s declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that “war is inevitable.” The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a “momentous comment.

Although he acknowledges “serious errors” in intelligence, policy and operational plans surrounding the invasion, Feith blames them on others outside the Pentagon and notes that “even the best planning” cannot avoid all problems in wartime. While he says the decision to invade was correct, he judges that the task of creating a viable and stable Iraqi government was poorly executed and remains “grimly incomplete.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/08/AR2008030802724.html?hpid=topnews

U.S. Navy Setting Up To Kill Dangerous Satellite

February 19, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 19, 2008

The U.S. Navy is setting up at sea with two missile armed ships to kill a satellite heading toward reentry with about 1,000 pounds of frozen toxic hydrazine fuel aboard.

The hydrazine could pose a threat to people and animals on the ground if it landed on earth, the U.S. Department of Defense and other government sources have said.  A National Security Council spokesman indicated that President Bush made the decision to order the Navy to eliminate the satellite.

The ships making ready to launch missiles are the USS Lake Erie and USS Decatur, according to U.S. Navy sources.  Lake Erie is a guided missile cruiser that has had special crew training and experience with the SM-3 missile which is expected to be used during this event.  Decatur is a guided missile destroyer with similar crew training and experience.
USS Lake Erie docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
USS Lake Erie (CG-70)

At least three SM-3 missile are known to be dedicated to this mission.
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Read Admiral Brad Hicks, the senior engineer in the Navy with oversight over these missiles and the support computer programs and systems, is know to be at sea aboard one of these ships.

The missile launch to attempt to kill the satellite cannot occur before the Space Shuttle Atlantis lands on Wednesday. 

According to sources, NASA has requested that the Navy hold off until Atlantis lands, even though there is practically no danger to the space shuttle from this event.
Decatur entering San Diego Harbor, 9 March 2004.
USS Decatur (DDG-73)

Both Russia and China have objected to the event, saying that the United States is potentially starting an arms race in space.

China already demontrated an-anti satellite (ASAT) capability by using a former strategic intercontinental launch system to take out a Chinese made satellite.

The Defense Department said that China’s test was in “deep space” and “the great altitude” of several hundred miles.  The U.S. Navy is attemting to destroy a U.S. made satellite at about 150 miles from the surface of the earth.  The satellite target is nearing reentry and is of potential danger to an area of life on earth.

The U.S. Navy’s SM-3 is much smaller and less capable than a Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile.  Experts tell Peace and Freedom that the Russian and Chinese objections are “laughable.”

The “kill vehicle” which is expected to hit the satellite is guided by an infra-red heat source.  Since the satellite is “cold,” the shot must occur while the sun is reflecting an IR source off the satellite.  This only occures during a time-frame once every day.

The first attempt to kill the satellite will occur on Thursday. 

The Navy is prepared to attempt additional intercepts of the satellite if necessary.

Related:

US to try satellite shoot-down Thursday: report

Navy Will Attempt to Down Spy Satellite

China’s Missiles

January 4, 2008

By Bill Gertz
“Inside the Ring”
The Washington Times
January 4, 2008

The Pentagon’s latest estimate of Chinese missile deployment opposite Taiwan is that there are now more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan.
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“China has deployed roughly 1,000 mobile CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range ballistic missiles to garrisons opposite Taiwan,” said one knowledgeable defense official.
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The official declined to comment on a Tuesday speech by Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), who stated that Taiwanese military intelligence now counts 1,328 Chinese missiles deployed within range of Taiwan, an increase of more than 300 from earlier estimates.
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The China missile buildup has drawn no criticism from the Bush administration, which appears to have shifted its policy away from supporting Taiwan to backing communist-ruled mainland China.
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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month echoed Beijing in calling Taiwan’s plan for a vote on United Nations membership as “provocative.” By contrast, Miss Rice and other administration officials have said nothing about the missile buildup, which the Pentagon says is designed for a massive “decapitation” strike against Taiwan in any future conflict.
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Defense officials said the policy tilt toward Beijing is due to the growing power of pro-China and anti-Taiwan policy and intelligence officials located at key posts within the National Security Council staff, the State Department, Treasury Department and within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Read all of “Inside the Ring”:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080104/NATION04/410150204/1008

U.S. Brokered Bhutto’s Return to Pakistan

December 28, 2007

 By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 28, 2007; Page A01

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy — and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington’s key ally in the battle against terrorism.

It was a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council. As President Pervez Musharraf’s political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.

“The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact,” said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/27/AR2007122701481.html?hpid=topnews

Mrs Clinton’s résumé factor: Those 2 terms as first lady

December 26, 2007
By Patrick Healey
The New York Times
December 26, 2007
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton jaw-boned the authoritarian president of Uzbekistan to leave his car and shake hands with people. She argued with the Czech prime minister about democracy. She cajoled Roman Catholic and Protestant women to talk to one another in Northern Ireland. She traveled to 79 countries in total, little of it leisure; one meeting with mutilated Rwandan refugees so unsettled her that she threw up afterward.

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

US Democratic presidential hopeful New York Senator Hillary ...
AFP/Getty Images/File

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

Read the rest at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/26/us/politics/26clinton.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Gen. Sanchez assails Bush, others for Iraq ‘nightmare’

October 13, 2007

The former U.S. commander in Iraq, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has delivered a withering indictment of the the White House’s handling of the war, telling a gathering of military journalists that “America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.”
LTG Ricardo Sánchez

LTG Ricardo Sánchez

“There was been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” said Sanchez, who commanded U.S. forces from June 2003 to July 2004.

“After more than fours years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism,” Sanchez said, adding that a military-only strategy will simply “stave off defeat,” not achieve victory. “From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power.”

Read the rest:
http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/10/gen-sanchez-ass.html