WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has set 25 goals to meet by the end of the Bush administration, including implementation of a long-term plan for detaining terrorism suspects, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.
Only one of the initiatives outlined in the August 9 memo directly references Iraq, but many reflect weaknesses in military capabilities revealed by nearly six years of war there and in Afghanistan.
Among the initiatives, defense intelligence is ordered to quickly improve its ability to track and locate “high value targets” -- language used by military and intelligence officials for top al Qaeda suspects.
The military is ordered to expand its Special Operations Forces, the covert units conducting counter-terrorism operations, and to support an agency seeking technologies to defeat improvised explosive devices, the roadside bombs that have proven deadly to troops in Iraq.
The memo was written by the No. 2 political official at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. He said the goals must be completed or pushed to a major milestone by December, 2008 -- the last full month of George W. Bush’s presidency.
“As you are aware, the end objective is to complete or advance to a major milestone each of these initiatives and also to have them institutionalized by December, 2008,” England wrote to the top military and defense officials inside the Pentagon.
“Completing these initiatives by the end of next year will be greatly beneficial to the next management team and to our military forces,” he said.
According to one U.S. official, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the list in May or June, ordering all Pentagon divisions and military branches to submit goals that could be achieved before the end of the administration.
Bush was briefed on the list this month, England said.
The first eight goals are related to the U.S.-declared war on terror.
Among them, the military is tasked with assessing progress in Iraq in September and then revising military strategy as needed. A progress report due that month is seen in Washington as pivotal in weighing whether the Pentagon’s current war strategy is working.
Also among those goals, the Pentagon’s policy shop is directed to implement a “long-term strategy for detainees” in the war on terror.
The memo offered no further details on that goal, which comes as Washington faces tough criticism worldwide for the detention without charge of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members at the Guantanamo Bay military prison.
Bush and administration officials have repeatedly said they want to close Guantanamo, but also argue it is needed in the war on terror. Other options for detaining the prisoners -- specifically transferring them to federal facilities in the United States -- could face stiff opposition in Congress.
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