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Pentagon plan focuses on fighting terrorist networks

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon plans to expand the military's special operations forces, build more bombers and strengthen ties with foreign allies and other parts of the U.S. government to destroy terrorist networks abroad and defend against them at home.

The plans are part of a series of changes outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review that will be delivered to Congress on Feb. 6. They represent a shift in focus from defeating foreign armies to fighting terrorists and other irregular forces in what military planners now call "the long war."

According to a draft copy, the Pentagon plans to boost the overall number of special operations troops by 15 percent.

The Army's Special Forces battalions, commonly known as the Green Berets, will increase by one-third. Psychological operations and civil affairs units will expand by 3,500 soldiers.

The Marine Corps will create a 2,600-person force to train foreign militaries and conduct secret missions.

The Navy will increase the size of its SEAL commando force and develop a small-boat force to patrol rivers. The Air Force will establish a squadron of unmanned drones for use by the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The review calls for increasing the number of Navy ships in the Pacific Ocean. It would put six of the Navy's 12 aircraft carriers and 60 percent of its submarines in the Pacific at all times "to support engagement, presence and deterrence." Although the draft plan doesn't mention any countries by name, the buildup is intended to offset the rising power of China and India and deter potential threats, particularly from North Korea.

The draft also discloses plans to build a new long-range bomber for the Air Force by 2018 and declares that 35 percent of the Air Force's bomber fleet in the future will consist of unmanned aircraft.

Military planners frequently speak of having "global reach" to target enemies, and one goal is developing the ability to find and strike terrorists anywhere in the world within hours.

Defense officials say the changes in military strategy, which drive the plans mapped out in the review, reflect the uncertainties that the United States probably will face.

"We don't know how we're going to use the force. So we have to have a capability set that will withstand all reasonable futures," Ryan Henry, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a speech Jan. 17.

Henry and other top-ranking defense officials have declined to discuss any specifics of the review publicly, but 42 pages of draft excerpts were posted recently on the Web site InsideDefense.com, an online news service.

Congress requires the Pentagon to assess U.S. military strategy and report its findings every four years in the Quadrennial Defense Review. The plan maps priorities for weapons, manpower and other funding based on current threats and those in the foreseeable future.

The 2006 defense review is the second the Bush administration has conducted. The first was published in 2002 but was based largely on analysis done before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The 2006 review is the first to incorporate lessons from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. military forces are unmatched in traditional warfare but less suited to fighting insurgencies, where conventional might is offset by the enemy's ability to blend in locally and bargaining is often more effective than bullets.

Michele Flournoy, a former Clinton administration defense official who's an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research group in Washington, said the new focus on irregular warfare was the strongest piece of the 2006 defense review.

"That's the one area where they really have connected the dots," Flournoy said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon already had increased funding for intelligence, put more emphasis on foreign-language training, expanded the role of special operations forces and incorporated the study of unconventional warfare into military curricula.

"Clearly there's an emphasis on recognizing that the things that we face today are not conventional threats with large armies, navies and air forces, but more asymmetric or irregular threats, and we've been making those adjustments over the past four and a half years," he said Wednesday.

Rumsfeld said the 2006 review "should be seen as the next step in a long line of significant changes, many of which have been accomplished in the last five years, others of which are in process."

U.S. national security strategy calls for meeting traditional threats such as conventional warfare with other nations, irregular warfare against insurgents and other unconventional forces, catastrophic threats such as a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction on American soil and disruptive threats including a technological breakthrough by a potential adversary that offsets U.S. dominance in a particular area, such as stealth technology.

The expected increase of special operations forces is the largest since the Vietnam war, according to experts.

Although not included in the draft, a defense expert who's familiar with Pentagon planning said the number of Army Special Forces battalions would increase from 15 to 20. That means adding about 2,000 soldiers to the 5,000-man force.

The Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, which numbers around 2,000 soldiers, will be authorized to have an additional line company, or about 120 more soldiers, for each of its three battalions.

The Navy's SEAL teams will see a modest increase of several hundred. They currently number around 2,000.

In addition, the U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Fla., will receive a squadron of about 16 unmanned Predator drones, which can be armed and used to strike targets in remote areas where ground troops can't operate.

The Special Operations Command was established in 1987. When the United States began bombing Afghanistan a month after 9-11 attacks, Special Forces commandos working alongside Afghanistan's Northern Alliance militia directed air strikes that led to the Taliban government's collapse in less than a month.

Special Forces also directed air strikes on the al-Qaida stronghold at Tora Bora in November 2001, but Osama bin Laden and many of his fighters escaped.

In 2002, Rumsfeld directed that Special Operations Command take the lead role in hunting terrorists. The command has 52,000 troops assigned to units in the armed forces.

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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