NIE: Iraq War Spawned New Generation of Terrorists
The National Intelligence Estimate concludes that the Iraq War has spawned a new generation of terrorists.
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
One would be remiss for failing to note that these are the same intelligence agencies who failed to predict the Iranian Revolution, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the war in the Balkans, Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, the 9/11 attacks, London bombings, Madrid bombings, and other major events. Or that they opposed the Iraq War to begin with and that this finding vindicates their position.
Still, there’s not much doubt about the broad conclusion here. Michael Scheuer argued in Imperial Hubris that fomenting an American-led invasion of an Arab Muslim country was beyond Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams when he launched the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda was hoping for a second rallying event like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to gin up enthusiasm for the cause and turn latent anti-Western hostility into more troops for the cause. Others made similar arguments and few doubted that as a likely effect.
The primary terrorism-related rationale for the Iraq War was that creating a model Arab democracy was the path to changing the culture that makes the recruitment of suicide bombers possible. Whether that will happen in the longer term is unknown but there’s little evidence to date that it’s happening.
A rationale never advanced by the administration but embraced by numerous online analysts in the run-up and early days of the war was the so-called “flypaper strategy.” Basically, it’s the “don’t throw me in the briar patch” side of the NIE assessment: Terrorists would flood into Iraq where they’d be killed in droves by America’s professional soldiers. The ultimate game of “fight them over there rather than here at home,” if you will. This has certainly happened but without the intended strategic outcome. We’ve killed or captured hundreds upon hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists, including scores of their senior leaders around the world. Thus far, unfortunately, they’ve responded in hydra-like fashion.
Most observers agree that Al Qaeda itself is far weaker than it was on 9/11/01. So far, at least, it appears that the overall jihadi cause is stronger.
The question remains, however: What now? If the Iraq War has increased the number of terrorists, does it follow that leaving Iraq in its current state would decrease the number of terrorists? Doubtful.
While Osama and company managed to attact large numbers of troops to fight the atheist Soviets in Afghanistan, they gained far more out of the fact that the Soviets left Afghanistan in defeat. Similarly, it’s quite likely that an American withdrawal from Iraq without accomplishing the barest part of our mission–a reasonably stable, democratic society–would embolden the jihadists. Afghanistan. Lebanon. Somalia. Each of those displays of weakness convinced the jihadists that the infidel was weak and could be defeated. Forcing the Americans to leave Iraq would be a far, far bigger prize.
“Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.”
So the Iraq war is to blame for something that has been happening for decades anyways?
We have lost all of our credibility and can’t win until we recover it. The World isn’t supporting us right now and while I don’t think we can run all of our business based on the concerns of other nations, certainly when it is a world wide problem we must consider their concerns and build alliances, not threaten to bomb them into the stone age if they don’t immediately acquiesce.
Posted by the Lemming Herder at Don’t
Be A Lemming!
The problem, as I view it, is that virtually all the actions of this President in the region are fomenting instability and hostility that may soon reach a point of no return. Even worse, the efforts of this administration are failing to create a wedge between extremist leaders and their populations. On the contrary, the language used by this administration, coupled with the perception that the U.S. is engaged in unwarranted and ideological aggression, has served to push otherwise moderate populations into alignment with radical governments and extremist organizations.
As I attempt to grasp the magnitude of allowing this President unfettered authority between now and the end of his second term, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to dissuade a man with his level of certainty and conviction from undertaking the actions that will facilitate the ideations he seems convinced have been presented to him through a mix of fate and faith.
History may well record this chapter as a period of unparalleled extremism. Worse yet, the United States may well be viewed as the primary force in facilitating that eventuality. George Bush, when asked about his legacy, seems content to respond that while he can’t predict the future he believes his actions will prove to be pivotal. He may well be correct but, in this instance, I would suggest he recall the expression, “Be careful what you wish for”.
Read more here:
The question remains, however: What now? If the Iraq War has increased the number of terrorists, does it follow that leaving Iraq in its current state would decrease the number of terrorists? Doubtful.
Its a real Gordian Knot, and no mistake. As the old adage goes, “if you fail to plan you plan to fail”. Anyone who says they have an easy, simple solution is lying through their teeth. Bush certainly seems to have decided to leave this knotty problem as his legacy to the next incumbent, as “stay the course” simply won’t cut it. However the next president decides to go about it, cutting the problem will be messy – there’s just no way around that.
The barest part of the mission, you say, is a “reasonably stable, democratic society” but I think part of the problem is that the occupying powers can’t quite decide which of those is more important – stability or democracy.
If the former, then maybe some neocons who have called for a new strongman have it right. That will have its own political blowback in the region and at home and will destroy any foreign belief in America’s love of “freedom”. The consequences are not hard to imagine.
If the latter, then we have to accept that it may well be a “little-Iran” (with/without the Kurds?) which might provide internal stability and would ensure a whole lot of regional instability. A “democracy as long as its in our interests” situation will continue to complicate the knot.
True democracy and true sovereignty would mean no unnanounced drop-ins by the leaders of the occupiers, no ambassadors rewriting plans for the Iraqi leadership, and providing Iraq with a true military infrastructure capable of defending its own nation from external state-based threats as well as fighting internal security battles. The latter would cost at least $40 billion (an air force with missiles and guns, a real navy, some real tanks and artillery etc.) I don’t see anyone with plans for that on either wing of American politics. Both poles seem to be agreed that a Satrapy is best for the forseeable future. That means the Iraqis continue to see their government as being puppets who only exist at the whim of their occupiers, no matter how many votes there are.
I submit that the West can leave Iraq with stability or democracy – and that the occupying incompetence has ensured we cannot have both. I don’t like it, but it is the way I see it. (Personally I would choose democracy and the hope that in the long term we can repair the damage that will do in the region and worldwide by a return to ethical realism). The trouble is, leaving Iraq with only one ends up being a bigger prize for the extremists than any of the previous weaknesses you cite – a prize they have been handed gratis by those who failed to plan and so planned to fail.
History has repeated itself, remember Pearl Harbour? It’s not a fairy tale, it’s reality. The people that we are engaged with in our struggle know only the stick. Look at how their leaders control them. We have offered the Olive branch or the stick (Choices) they choose the stick, so be it. Even their Clerics sit ideally and say nothing when they behead and suicide bomb people but let the Pope condemn their actions and they want a Jihad. Give them what they are asking for, an American Jihad with A BIGGER STICK!
Nice blog.No one that lives in the world of reality can honestly say they expect a war, any war, to be bloodless or easy.
The question I ask myself, that i do not see many other people asking, is where would we be if we hadn’t gone to war on terror? Bin Laden aside, cause the man is nothing more than a pitiful figurehead, would they have just decided on their own to not bomb any more of our buildings here in America? Would they have decided to not go after our airliners and hijack more planes to kill thousands of our people? Would they have simply said, “ok, we did good, enough is enough!?
I don’t think so.
As I have previously said about Iraq, we know they had used chemical warfare on their OWN people, what would have stopped them from handing those over to a terrorist group, after they tested it enough on their people,? What if all those planes on 9/11 had been carring anthrax or a nerve gas? These are very real possibilities, things that I have no doubt would have occured eventually. Would we have been better off waiting until they did such a thing and then taking care of the problem?
How much were we supposed to take before we woke up and said ENOUGH?
Gratuitous spam removed. -ed.
Bush: ‘We’ve got to kill them over there or they’ll come here’. Either that statement is semantically empty and just pure emotivism masquerading as meaningful speech, or it’s the flypaper theory.
(although maybe I shouldn’t discount the theory that Bush really was stupid enough to think that al-Q corporate HQ was in Baghdad)
First of all “Osama and Company” didn’t just go out and “attract large numbers of troops” to fight the Soviets. The Soviets–like the US in Iraq–were a foreign occupying force. It may strike you as odd, but people in sovereign countries generally don’t willfully accept foreign occupation.
The Afghan resistance to the Soviets was not guided by Osama–it was, like the resistance in Iraq–composed primarily of diverse elements whose antagonisms amongst each other were nearly as strong as their beef with the Soviets. These elements–Pashtun, Persians, Turkish, and clan based groups–were highly heterogenous. And were aided by significant outside support.
Secondly, to say that “Osama and company” “gained more out of the fact that the Soviets left Afghanistan” and to compare it with the threat of American withdrawl is just silly. In actuality, the Soviet withdrawl has had no measurable consequences in terms of being targeted by Al quaeda.
Certainly there have been elements of Islamic-inspired terrorism in Russia. But this is primarily a result of the Chechen separatist movement, which has nothing to do with the Soviet Afghanistan debacle. There have been Al Quaeda elements fighting in Chechnya, but they have been inconsequential and opportunistically tied themselves to an unstable situation that had its origins in a fundamentally nationalistic–not religious–conflict.
It was actually a very smart thing for the Soviets to get out of Afghanistan. They realized–just as we should with regard to Iraq–that a foreign occupying army can’t impose its “mission” on a non-compliant population.
Is George Bush not a member of the administration?
Everytime he opens his mouth he makes this argument. From his June 28, 2005 speech to a hand-picked audience in North Carolina:
According to this guy’s logic, if we weren’t in Iraq, the Shiites and Sunni elements that make up the bulk of the Iraqi resistance would resolve their differences, place thier battle for control of Iraq on hold, and come to Philadelphia to engage in another 9/11. This is preposterous and indicative of the typical fear-mongering that supplant’s analysis in Bush’s brain.
Apparently, Bush is not alone, James, since you claim basically the same thing:
The people who are trying to force Americans out of Iraq are the various elements in Iraq seeking to gain control of an independent country. The Defense Department’s own polling shows 75% of Sunnis supporting the insurgency–this is up from 14% in 2003.
Private polling shows that about the only thing that Iraq’s agree upon is seeing a timetable for US withdrawl: Support ranges from 64% of Kurds to 90% of Shia, to 94% of Sunni.
The latest British Ministry of Defense Poll shows 82% of Iraqis “strongly opposed” to the presence of US/British troops.
This whole operation is a quagmire and an utter failure of judgement and leadership in the US.
So the NIE states the obvious. Yes there will be more known terrorist today. There is active warfare going on. This would draw all those who had tendencies or were hostile to the US but in active to action. Just how are they determining “new.” Does anyone really think that someone in Bagdad or Cairo will respond to a poll as “pro-American”? All the “cool” muslim kids are for jihad just like all the “cool” American kids are against the war. Let’s face it, in America pro-Armican gets you verbally attacked, in the ME pro-American will get you, your family, your friends and your pets beheaded.
I’m curious if the intelligence agencies thought to look at terrorist successes in changing foreign governments policies, and in one instance, a foreign government, as reasons for the increase. Looking around the world, there are notably few governments willing to take on jihadism, and many that are quietly acquiescing.
Not that the war in Iraq may be, in fact, the most significant factor in the increase in terrorism, just that if that’s the conclusion one wants to draw at the onset of an investigation, likely that will be ones ultimate conclusion.
How on Earth can you claim that the Bush administration never embraced the flypaper theory? They explicitly and repeatedly used the “fight them over there” argument as a primary defense of their decision to invade Iraq. Obviously there were no al-Q there before we invaded. Obviously they came once we invaded. Obviously Bush repeatedly used this to sustain the argument.
For the past 3 years, while the overwhelming majority of the violence in Iraq was caused by Sunni insurgents, and Sunni-Shiite sectarian competition, the Administration pretended that our efforts there were all about fighting “terrorists”.
The “flypaper theory” was, and is, the central linchpin of the attempt to define the Iraq War as part of the “war on terror”. Without that theory, there is no way the connection could be made.
I repeat my question. How on earth can you claim otherwise?
A few questions for Tanto and others,
In your view of the world, is al Qaeda the only terrorist organization that has attacked America and it’s allies? Was it al Qaeda who stormed the Iranian Embassy and hold American hostage for 444 days? Did al Qaeda plant the bombs on board planes that detonated in flight and that killed Americans back in the 80’s? Is al Qaeda the only organisation that committed acts of terrorism that have killed Americans over the last four decades? I think not!
Wake up people, terrorists existed long before al Qaeda and will still exit after al Qaeda is gone. This is a war on terror in general and not on a specific group or origination. It will be a long and bloody struggle, but in time the world will remove the threat of large terrorist attacks.
Don’t confuse the WOT to mean just a war on al Qaeda and bin Laden, for that is a wrong assumption and doesn’t reflect the real world.
As for Iraq, why is it acceptable to fight a humanitarian war in Serbia, Kosovo, and other Balkan states, as President Clinton stated in his latest interview, but not do the same in Iraq and other countries? Why the apparent disconnect between on one tyrannical government (Yugoslavia and Milosevic) and another (Iraq and Saddam)? If it is proper to use military force to overthrow one government based on humanitarian reasons, then it is proper to use military force on other governments for the same reason.
Tell me, what is the reason for distinguishing between the two governments and the need for military action against one but not the other? Is it because Milosevic was a bigger threat to his people and committed worse atrocities than Saddam? Or is it that one war was fought by a Democrat and another by a Republican?
I am curious as to how you see “emboldened” terrorists. I mean, they attacked New York City and the pentagon… exactly how much more bold could they be?
I’m particularly curious how this jibes with “we are safer, but not yet safe?” If indeed as the report states that the terrorist threat is higher now, how then are we “safer?” I have my popcorn ready for the admin spin this will get.
Also, this blog, like most right leaners, seems to ask the false choice argument. If we do/did nothing… or what now…? You still haven’t faced up to the real truth of the matter. This is and always was a colossal strategic mistake. Worse yet, no one has been held to account for that. I submit that until you on the right ask for and get accountability, this will continue to get worse and worse and truly result in a significant loss in the “war on terror.”
I have to disagree with this assumption. It is apparent to anyone who understands global history that instability and hostility existed in the middle east long before President Bush took office. To think otherwise is to ignore reality.
As to the war in Iraq breeding a new generation of terrorists, that’s obvious. Just as America’s support of Israel since 1947 has bred terrorism in the middle east, just as America’s support of the Shaw of Iran did, just as our support of democracy in several countries did and still dose. The truth is, anything America does will breed a new generation of terrorism as America is the biggest threat to those who use terrorism as a means of warfare.
People can blame America, it’s president, and it’s policies, but that’s not what is actually breeding terrorists in this world. Terrorists are being ‘bred’ because of the acceptance by a large percentage of people worldwide as to using terrorism as a valid means of warfare. How may times have you heard that the terrorists are just freedom fighters that have no other means to fight for their freedom? How many times has people justified terrorism using whatever excuse is convenient at the time? How may time will the news media report this acceptance? How many time will that acceptance be stated over and over again. both in public and in private? How long will people allow terrorism to exist? Not be until people stop accepting terrorism as a valid means of dissent and resistance will terrorism decrease.
The world needs to say, in one voice, that terrorism will NOT be accepted as a means of warfare, just as the world has said about weapons of mass destruction. The world needs to band together and actively resist terrorism before terrorism will stop “breeding a new generation.” We have the means to do this, but apparently we do not have the courage.
That’s not going to happen. The next step is to start weighing the costs of particular actions against their benefits. Iraq was a loser on that count, so let’s be sure to weigh appropriately next time.
Sure the middle east has been a powder keg for a long time. But it’s all a matter of degree. Before our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hussein was in his box at a cost of about 1.5 billion in containment during which we didn’t lose a single American life. Now we have Afghanistan occupied but only greater Kabul under our control. The Afghans are going to wait us out and then the mayor of Kabul old Karzai will be on the next plane out. Iraq is a shambles, need one say more. Iran is totally ascendant. The Arab masses are aroused against the US to a greater extent than ever before. Lebanon is also on the edge of becoming a failed state and is increasingly dominated by Hezbollah. And the Palestian problem is unresolved. In short it is a monumental mess and represents a complete failure of US policy. There is no other conclusion that any rational human being could reach. I know stating the obvious is not always acceptable in the US, but there it is. The basic problem is that Bush’s and the Republican parties articulation of the problems we face has much more to with covering their butts and domestic politics, than the reality of what we are dealing with. They would much rather talk about bogus issues like Islamo fascism or WW 3 than deal pragmatically and honestly with what is required to protect the national interest. In the immediate sense the price is being paid by the kids dying in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in the long term it will be paid by us and our children, because his administration has allowed a serious but essentially regional problem to mestazazize into a global debacle for this country.
A rationale never advanced by the administration
I have to suppose that, in context, JJ means “before the invasion.”
Well, keep advocating the policy you have been, and I’ve no doubt you’ll get the answer to that question.
Precisely, wherein lies the point. Also there’s the political motivations of someone making the argument to consider.
And yet nobody seems to be mentioning that Islam of fascism as a whole was growing by leaps and bounds prior to our response to 9/11… prior to our invading Iraq.
And what did we have prior to those times? We had the Clinton administration basically ignoring Islam of fascists. Oh, the occasional arrest, or the occasional lobbing of a missile at a target. But never, never, never, any concerted effort to control the Entremists.
Which brought us to 9/11.
Bithead, your substantive views are even more dubious than your spell-checker.
You don’t have a clue of a clue of what policy I advocate. The best you can do is parrot warmed over admin crap about “appeasement” & “Islamofascists”. You are a perfect sap, blindly advancing Bush & Cheney’s policy, if you want to even dignify it by calling it policy.
The “what now” ought to START with the question:
“Why should we listen to anything these guys have to say now, after they’ve been so utterly and completely wrong on a matter of such importance?”
But, of course, you can’t ask that question, since you’re beholden to the Republicans. Too bad.
It reminds me of when I was a kid and we had some rat problems that originated by a nearby garbage dump. The dump was buried and closed. All sudden we had a great deal more rat problems but with a little time it was taken care of.
The terrorist recruitment bases have existed for a long time. Closing some down will cause some to flush out and an increase in recruitment efforts. In the long run it will be good to close down these bases. To stick our heads in the ground again will only prolong and increased the problem while only giving maybe a temporary short term relief. More likely, it will only encourage them more.
As usual the new york times either twisted the information it recieved or just out and out lied.
Here is the statement from the Director of National Intelligence himself:
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 24, 2006
Statement by the Director of National Intelligence, John D. Negroponte, in response to news reports about the National Intelligence Estimate on Trends in Global Terrorism
“A National Intelligence Estimate is a comprehensive assessment comprised of a series of judgments which are based on the best intelligence our government develops. Characterizing only a small handful of those judgments distorts the broad strategic framework the NIE is assessing . in this case, trends in global terrorism.
“Although the NIE on Global Terrorism is still a classified document, I and other senior intelligence officials have spoken publicly, and in a way consistent with the NIE’s comprehensive assessment, about the challenges and successes we have had in the Global War on Terror. What we have said, time and again, is that while there is much that remains to be done in the war on terror, we have achieved some notable successes against the global jihadist threat.
“We have eliminated much of the leadership that presided over al Qaeda — our top global terror concern . in 2001, and U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts continued to disrupt its operations, remove its leaders and deplete its cadre. The Estimate highlights the importance of the outcome in Iraq on the future of global jihadism, judging that should the Iraqi people prevail in establishing a stable political
and security environment, the jihadists will be perceived to have failed and fewer jihadists will leave Iraq determined to carry on the fight elsewhere.
“Those statements do nothing to undermine the assessment that we have an enormous and constantly mutating struggle before us in the long war on terror. They simply demonstrate that the conclusions of the Intelligence Community are designed to be comprehensive and viewing them through the narrow prism of a fraction of judgments distorts the broad framework they create.”
The address for the actual pdf file is: http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20060924_release.pdf
Now after readingthis, how on earth did the reporters get the information SO wrong?
Makes one wonder doesn’t it?
If our aim is, as you put it,
“our mission—a reasonably stable, democratic society” in Iraq, then there is something else one must ask.
I ask the question: “Is such an outcome likely? Was it ever likely? If its not likely, and not going to happen, how do you ask someone ‘to be the last man to die for a mistake?'”
The idea that a withdrawal from Iraq will encourage Jihadists is probably correct. But it will also leave them without Americans conveniently located to kill . . . and one suspects that in our absence, they and their neighbors will revert to their traditional passtime: killing each other.
Which would not, for us, be such a bad thing.