Plan Of Attack
The Pentagon has a secret new strategy for taking on terrorists--and taking them down
The Pentagon will use a new set of metrics twice a year to measure its progress in the war against terrorism. Commanders are to report, for example, on successes in locating and dismantling terrorist safe havens, financial assets, communications networks, and planning cells for each of the target groups.
The Pentagon's Special Operations Command is designated in the new plan as the global "synchronizer" in the war on terrorism for all the military commands and is responsible for designing a new global counterterrorism campaign plan and conducting preparatory reconnaissance missions against terrorist organizations around the world.
Under a draft national security presidential decision directive, expected to be approved next month, the White House would have greater flexibility to resolve turf battles in the government's overall counterterrorism effort.
The new Pentagon directive, General Caslen told U.S. News , has unified the military behind one counterterrorism plan for the first time: "Prior to the release of this document, everybody had their own idea of what the enemy was. Therefore, everybody had their own idea of how to fight it. We had different ideas among the services, among the commands, among the different agencies. Heck, we even had different ideas among the different organizations within this building."
Defining the enemy in precise terms was one of the first big hurdles in producing the new strategy document. "Since 9/11," Caslen said, "the relationships and interdependencies among like-minded terrorist groups have become clearer, and we assess [that] there are nearly two dozen terrorist groups with varying degrees of interaction with and/or interdependency on al Qaeda." But some officials were leery of painting the adversary with too broad a brush for fear of alienating the mainstream Muslims the new strategy defines as pivotal allies. "It's important that we point out that it's not a religious or cultural clash," Caslen says. "It is a war to preserve ordinary people's ability to live as they choose."
The final product reflects changes of profound significance, Pentagon officials say. First, the enemy is now defined more broadly than just al Qaeda. Second, the Pentagon has now officially moved away from what has been widely seen as a unilateral American approach. "It's not a military project alone," Feith explained, "and the United States cannot do it by itself alone."
Going global. The new strategy, for the first time, formally directs military commanders to go after a list of eight pressure points at which terrorist groups could be vulnerable: ideological support, weapons, funds, communications and movement, safe havens, foot soldiers, access to targets, and leadership. Each U.S. geographic command is to follow a systematic approach, first collecting intelligence on any of the two dozen target groups that are operating in its area of responsibility and then developing a plan to attack all eight nodes for each of those groups.
Going after high-value targets like Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi, his emir in Iraq, is still a big part of the strategy but only a part. Three less direct approaches will now receive much greater emphasis: helping partner nations confront terrorism, going after supporters of terrorist organizations, and helping the State Department-led campaign to reduce the ideological appeal of terrorism. The latter category includes such things as military-provided humanitarian aid. U.S. aid to tsunami victims, for example, dramatically swung Asian public opinion from a negative to a positive view of America. Despite fears that the U.S. military is waging a duplicitous propaganda war, many military officials say that "information operations" are an inevitable dimension of warfare and must play a role, along with the State Department's public-diplomacy efforts. One particular area of emphasis: educating soldiers in religious and cultural sensitivities. Caslen showed a reporter two photographs as examples of what not to do--one of marines bivouacked inside Fallujah's Khulafah Rashid mosque after driving out insurgents, another of a soldier's rosary dangling from a tank barrel.