CIA: Iraq May Be Prime Place for Training of Militants, C.I.A. Report Concludes

Iraq May Be Prime Place for Training of Militants, C.I.A. Report Concludes (NYT | RSS)

A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Congressional and intelligence officials who described the assessment called it a thorough examination that included extensive discussion of the areas that might be particularly prone to infiltration by combatants from Iraq, either Iraqis or foreigners. They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980’s and 1990’s, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980’s. It was during that conflict, primarily rural and conventional, that the United States provided arms to Osama bin Laden and other militants, who later formed Al Qaeda.

The assessment said the central role played by Iraq meant that, for now, most potential terrorists were likely to focus their energies on attacking American forces there, rather than carrying out attacks elsewhere, the officials said. But the officials said Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries would soon have to contend with militants who leave Iraq equipped with considerable experience and training.

Previous warnings of this kind have been less detailed, as when Porter J. Goss, the director of central intelligence, told Congress earlier in the year that jihadists who survive the continued fighting in Iraq would leave there “experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism,” and form “a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.”

This is hardly surprising, really. Iraq is both the training ground and the battle ground for Islamist terrorists. If they can defeat the U.S. effort to create a democratic government in the heart of the Arab Middle East, they will have achieved a major victory. If not, their cause is set back immeasurably.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. M. Murcek says:

    One would assume that our troops are also learning some things about terrorists.

  2. Anderson says:

    I have this sense that whenever more evidence comes out that Bush’s policies are foolish, OTB comments that the news is “hardly surprising,” thus defanging the evidence. One day I will have to research this & see if my sense is correct …

  3. Just Me says:

    Also, it is probably good training for the Iraqi soldiers.

    They are being battle tested and trained under fire.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: I merely say it’s “unsurprising” in that it’s been obvious for well over a year. This isn’t something that requires the secret sources of the CIA to figure out–anyone reading the papers knows that there are a slew of terrorists running around Iraq killing people.

    Arguably, corraling the terrorists in Iraq so we could fight them there rather than here was a large part of the rationale behind the war. Clearly, though, they weren’t anticipating anything like this scale.

  5. legion says:

    Arguably, corraling the terrorists in Iraq so we could fight them there rather than here was a large part of the rationale behind the war.

    Funny, I don’t recall Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, or anyone else playing up that particular rationale to the Iraqis themselves…

    “Hey! We’d like to turn your country into the grand poo-bah convention center for terror, mayhem, and violence for the next ten years! Y’all don’t mind soakin’ up a few car bombs for the US, dooya? Condi calls it a ‘generational convention’! Cool, huh?”

  6. reliapundit says:

    drjj, you wrote:
    “If they can defeat the U.S. effort to create a democratic government in the heart of the Arab Middle East, they will have achieved a major victory.”

    name one nation defeated by terrorists!?

    not one has. ever. not anyhwere.

    not israel. not sri lanka. not the UK. not india.
    not spain. not columbia.

    not one.

    ever.

    if we don’t surrender and withdraw prematurely and/or cut-off funding of the Iraqis’ nascent democracy – as the Dem controlled Congress did in 1975 to the South Vietnamese people(when they pulled the plug on financing the SVG) – then the Iraqis will win.

    25,000 neojihadists/baathists CANNOT POSSIBLY defeat the 25 MILLION other Iraqis who want democracy/self-rule and NOT a return to genocidal tyranny.

    The Kurds and the Shia will never allow that to happen.And they are ABSORBING awful losses proving just that.

  7. Anderson says:

    Arguably, corraling the terrorists in Iraq so we could fight them there rather than here was a large part of the rationale behind the war. Clearly, though, they weren’t anticipating anything like this scale.

    Saw something yesterday on the morality of turning the Iraqis’ country into our terrorist flypaper, w/ the “hardly surprising” collateral damage, but can’t recall where.

    Btw, Google implies that JJ’s “hardly surprising” has no such pro-Bush history as I’d suggested; it just rang a bell.

  8. Clint Lovell says:

    Who is running the CIA, Laurel & Hardy? The CIA thinks Iraq may be a place where terrorists are being trained.

    Gee…

    Whatever gave them that idea?