Terrorism: September 26, 2001

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Terrorism Notes

@ Look for the Bush Administration to find an excuse to use the forces arrayed against Afghanistan to topple Iraq's Saddam (or at least punish his military severely). While there are many links between bin Laden followers and Iraqi intelligence, none of these appear to be related to the 11 September attacks.

@ It appears likely that the plane that hit the Pentagon was in fact intended to do so. (There has been speculation that this plane was targeted on the White House or capital.) The plane never entered the restricted air zone and its 270-degree turn seems to have been intended to slow down and lose altitude to set up the proper glide path for a Pentagon attack. 

@ The Pentagon is a huge building, and has been rebuilt, refurbished, and remodeled (in rotating stages) since it was completed at the end of World War II. Not surprisingly, the newly renovated sections did better in the aftermath of the attack that sections that have not been reworked in recent decades. The water sprinklers in older areas are not up to code, and the fire spread into those areas. Areas which had the fire sprinklers upgraded tended to survive. Some of the building's windows have been replaced by blast proof laminated types. In the original construction, the military used the minimum amount of steel (which was in short supply due to the war); renovated sections were rebuilt with more steel (and with steel columns wrapped with composite sheets to cut down on fragmentation) and survived better.

@ The Bush Administration apparently plans to eliminate the al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and then to proceed on a multi-year campaign to track down and eliminate other terrorist groups and bases.

@ On alert for action are four battalions of Marines (the two we usually keep at sea and the next two in rotation who were sent to sea early) and four Army Divisions of the XVIII Airborne Corps (10th Mountain, 3rd Mechanized, 82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault). One company which provides spare parts for trucks saw its daily requests for emergency spare parts deliveries go from an average of one per day to 53 on one Monday. The Pentagon hints that entire brigades of conventional troops could establish "armed bastions" inside Afghanistan from which special forces would conduct months of raids against guerrillas frantically trying to avoid discovery. 

@ Bankruptcy for airlines is covered by special rules that do not apply in other cases. In most bankruptcies, the company can keep using leased equipment it cannot make payments on. This is not the case for airlines; those who have leased planes to airlines or who have liens on such aircraft can confiscate them 61 days after payments are missed if those payments are not made. The problem is that in the current situation, anyone who repossessed an aircraft would have a hard time finding someone else to lease it. Expect a round of negotiations between airlines, leasing companies, and the government's checkbook.

@ China has warned that it will not allow a UN resolution against terrorism unless it also covers Taiwan and Tibet. The Bush Administration has shown little interest in a UN endorsement, preferring instead to build a coalition outside of the UN.

@ The US has issued demands for Lebanon and Syria to turn over a long list of those suspected of previous terrorist attacks. The US also wants Hezbollah disarmed if not disbanded.

@ India's offer of overflights and even the use of bases (in exchange for an end of sanctions) has another motive. Half of the "rebels" in Kashmir are in fact non-Kashmiri fighters from all over the Middle East who were trained in Afghanistan. A US attack on Afghanistan could inspire many of these to go back there.

@ The big risk is in Pakistan. If that country (which has nuclear weapons and theater-range missiles) came under control of a fundamentalist government friendly to bin Laden, the problems would get much worse. The Pakistani people admire bin Laden (Osama is the most popular name for newborn boys) and little love for their own military government. 

@ The US is calling up tens of thousands of reservists. Not surprisingly, anyone who speaks Arabic is high on the list. Also high on the list are Marine Force Recon, anyone with a psychology degree, and intelligence specialists.

@ The Kosovo War left the Air Force short of precision-guided weapons. FYEO reported before the 11 September attacks that the Air Force was dipping into war reserve stocks of these munitions in order to maintain minimal training. Worse, the companies that make these weapons cannot rapidly increase production as doing so requires hiring a second shift for the factories.

@ Congress is starting to complain that the intelligence community is not providing it with as much juicy data as it wants, and strongly suspects that the spooks do not trust Congress to keep a secret.

@ Many do not understand how commercial aircraft are tracked. Low-powered radar (which is not strong enough to pick up a reflection or "skin paint") triggers the aircraft's transponder, which then radios to the ground the identification of the aircraft. The return signal is strong enough to give the ground station a location for the aircraft. The US air traffic control system assumes that if the transponder on an airliner stops working, the aircraft is having mechanical or electrical problems and will land at the most convenient airport.

@ General Aviation (i.e, private planes) are not being allowed to fly on Visual Flight Rules (which allow the planes to move around at will) but only on Instrument Flight Rules (where ground controllers at least keep a list of what planes are moving around). 

@ The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided that a fuel-filled airliner meets the definition of a "weapon of mass destruction" (WMD), a definition normally reserved for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. In theory, the US (which doesn't have chemical or biological weapons) regards the use of any WMD as justification for the US to use nuclear weapons in response, although it is unclear if the FEMA definition is binding on US military policy.

@ The Bush Administration told Russia that the 11 Sept attacks made it more likely, rather than less likely, that it would formally cancel the ABM treaty.

@ There is a research facility at bin Laden's Abu Khahab Camp north of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) where experiments with chemical and biological weapons are conducted. Satellite photos showed dead dogs tied to poles, presumably used as experimental test subjects. The camp has been abandoned in the last few days.--Stephen V Cole

 

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