Pentagon pursuing more covert options

By Robert Burns Associated Press Nov. 13, 2002

WASHINGTON - The secret side of the U.S. military's war on terrorism is quietly growing.

The Pentagon is planning to expand its use of special-operations troops, including those that operate covertly in tandem with the CIA's paramilitary force, officials and private experts say.

Special-operations forces played a critical role in toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan last fall, and they almost surely would figure prominently in the earliest stages of a U.S. military action in Iraq, coordinating with local forces opposed to Saddam Hussein and hunting for Scud missile launchers.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes the military needs to improve its ability to find and track terrorists around the globe and to take decisive action against them. His moves toward that goal have caused some friction with the CIA and led to concern among some that the Pentagon's civilian leaders will only gather and act on those pieces of intelligence that they want to hear.

The Pentagon does not discuss its covert capabilities, but indications of Rumsfeld's interest in this shadowy area are apparent in a recent study by an advisory group.

The study called for the Pentagon and CIA to develop a new capability to "evoke responses" from terrorist groups so they can be attacked pre-emptively. Covert action, psychological operations, computer attacks, special-operations forces and "deception operations" would be combined in that role.

The CIA missile strike that killed a suspected al-Qaida leader in Yemen recently is evidence that methods used to target terrorists are changing. It was the kind of pre-emptive action outside a traditional war zone that Rumsfeld wants the military to take.

Rumsfeld is considering adding billions of dollars to the $5 billion budget of the Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the Army's Rangers and Green Berets, the Navy's SEALs and the Air Force's special-operations commandos. He also may approve increases in troop numbers.

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