View Full Version : NIE on Iraq and the GWOT

09-24-2006, 03:19 AM
Both the Washington Post (Spy Agencies Say War in Iraq Spread Terrorism Globally (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/23/AR2006092301130.html)) and New York Times (Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html?hp&ex=1159070400&en=003f596f66422cfd&ei=5094&partner=homepage)) are leading Sunday's papers with articles on a National Intelligence Estimate that was completed this past April. Here is an excerpt from the Post:

The war in Iraq has become the primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers are increasing faster than the United States and its allies are eliminating the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. Rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, it concludes, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document...

09-24-2006, 04:41 AM
The great, seldom reported story, here is the unrelenting bureaucratic guerilla warfare being waged by senior career management in the IC, especially at the CIA, against the policies of the Bush administration. It's like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, including the Nixon administration.

This is not to say that the Bush administration appointees have always been right and their internal critics wrong or that the unwillingness of political appointees to entertain dissenting views didn't help fuel the scenario in the first place. But from where I sit as an outsider to the process it would appear that the adversarial dynamic has long since taken on a life of its own - a dangerous one for the USG.

Nor are we getting an accurate view with this story. The contents onf the NIE were selectively leaked and, as with any NIE, some of the most interesting data points never made it into the document; either because the confidence level was not sufficiently high to merit inclusion or they were too controversial for the "consensus" approach. What was left on the cutting room floor ?

And why ?

09-24-2006, 11:32 PM
From the Thomas P.M. Barnett Web Log - Intel Agencies on Iraq (http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003754.html).

This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, "Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!"

Duh! When we engage the security situation--any security situation--in the Middle East, we piss off (and create more) terrorists. We do it when we're pro-active, like in Iraq. We do it when we're passive, like our military support to Israel. And we do it when we're behind the scenes, like our intell co-op with regimes throughout the region.

So it's never been a question of whether or not we piss off terrorists (who live to be pissed off, and when there's not enough going on, they'll get jacked over a film (e.g., Van Gogh), a book (Rushdie), a speech (Benedict)--whatever).

We can either engage the region militarily to deal with its security deficits that hold off economic connectivity and keep this overwhelmingly young population from engaging the future (globalization) or we can sit back, try to firewall America (something the spooks are always up for) and wait for the next explosion--or 9/11.

The issue isn't our military involvement, which has been constant for decades now, but the everything else that we suck at: our diplomatic, economic and social engagement with the region...

Tom Odom
09-25-2006, 01:08 PM
Having sat on SNIEs and NIEs, I would say a couple of things are interesting in this:

A. NIEs do not self start. Someone--and they are always senior--asked for this one.

B. As I undertsand it, this was completed in April. Given some of its findings, that it is selectively leaked now speaks for itself.

As for the Barnet blog, mindless comes to mind.


09-26-2006, 11:12 PM
Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate. Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.

Dated April 2006

Key Judgments

United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al-
Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.

• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.

• Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.

We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti- American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.

• The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the .cause celebre. for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1)
Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq .jihad;. (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.all of which jihadists exploit.

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists. radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

• The jihadists. greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution.an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari.a-based governance spanning the Muslim world.is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists. Propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.

• The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements.

We assess that the resulting splinter groups would, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to US interests than does al-Qa.ida.

• Should al-Zarqawi continue to evade capture and scale back attacks against Muslims, we assess he could broaden his popular appeal and present a global threat.

• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qa.ida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.

Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al- Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.

• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al- Qa.ida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.

We judge that most jihadist groups.both well-known and newly formed.will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.

• CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups.

While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists.

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.

• We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train, and obtain logistical and financial support.

09-28-2006, 08:21 PM
This is an opinion piece by Fouad Ajami, in the 28 Sep 06 WSJ:

Infidel Documents: Intelligence, jihadists and the Iraq war debate (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009007)

...Strictly speaking, the National Intelligence Estimate--another "canonical" document--is not a finding: It is an assessment of Islamic terrorism and its perceived links to Iraq. (It is odd, and ironic, that the intelligence agencies that had been mocked by liberal opinion for their reporting on Iraq before the war have now acquired an aura of infallibility.) Islamic terror did not wait on the Iraq war. The assertion that Islamic terrorism has "metastasized and spread across the globe" because of Iraq takes at face value what the jihadists themselves proclaim. It would stand to reason that their Web sites, and the audiotapes of their leaders, would trumpet their attachment to the cause of Iraq. It is inevitable that American analysts glued to jihadist cyberspace, and lacking intimate knowledge of Arab ways, would take the jihadists at their word. But Islamic radicals have not lacked for grievances. The anti-Americanism and antimodernism that brought them onto American soil five years ago predated Iraq. For the good part of two decades, jihadist terror blew at will, driven by the conviction in the lands of Islam and its diaspora communities that America was a pampered land with little zeal for bloody struggles...

Tom Odom
09-29-2006, 02:11 PM
Always interesting to read spin and this is definitely spin meeting spin. I respect Ajami; he is an excellent scholar. But he also falls into the category of the pre-OIF scholars who saw a post-war Iraq through rose coloured glasses.

It is inevitable that American analysts glued to jihadist cyberspace, and lacking intimate knowledge of Arab ways, would take the jihadists at their word.

Ajami did much taking the Iraqi outsiders on their words on how an Iraqi democracy would spring into being.


10-03-2006, 10:12 AM
3 things:

1. I am getting really upset about our lack of ability to keep classified information from being sent to the press.
2. The leak and the subsequent “declassification” are both blatantly aimed at influencing the upcoming election.
3. This report is stating the obvious.

10-03-2006, 10:36 AM
...you want them to. I participated in maybe 5 - 8 NIEs in the 1990's. If one was to selectively excerpt passages from any one of those NIEs one could present / support any number of opinions. Many NIEs offer up alternatives; and exceptions to the majorty opinion can always be "footnoted". I too am disgusted with the politically motivated leaks of our national security material.