Iraq and Trends in Terrorism

By Anthony | September 25th, 2006 | 10:40 pm

A recent National Intelligence Estimate reportedly claims that the war in Iraq is actually increasing the risk posed to us by Islamic terrorism:

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.

On the one hand, as I wrote last year, many of those we are fighting against in Iraq seem to be Iraqis themselves, and they may not necessarily fit the usual definition of “terrorist”.

On the other hand, situations change, and this NIE may be looking at aspects other than simply who we are fighting in Iraq. There are also some more recent developments that suggest that terrorists may indeed have found a nice playground and training area in certain parts of Iraq, particularly in the lawless Anbar province (as reported in a recent Washington Post article):

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there … [Col. Pete] Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province’s most significant political force …

So is the NIE correct? Do we need to change course? The authors of Counterterrorism Blog make a good suggestion:

The American people deserve to know, to the maximum extent possible, the actual findings and conclusions in this NIE and not depend on partial reports and leaks, which could be driven by all sorts of hidden agendas. The White House and DNI Negroponte should ask the members of the 9/11 Commission to independently review the NIE and release an unclassified version or summary of the report as soon as possible.

I’m not sure I understand why it should be the 9/11 Commission to do it (anyone?), but I do agree that some sort of independent review should be made, and an accurate summary should be made available. It’s in our best interest to know if our strategies are really doing what they are supposed to be doing – reducing the threat of terrorism – or if they are actually making the problem worse.

4 Responses to “Iraq and Trends in Terrorism”

  1. Joe Guarino Says:

    When I read the New York Times article, I was left wondering how causality between Iraq and creating more terrorists elsewhere could have been incontrovertibly demonstrated. I agree– we really need to see the report.

  2. Joe Guarino Says:


    In the news today, it appears Bush is moving to declassify and release at least part of the document.

  3. PotatoStew Says:

    I kind of doubt that something like that, in this complicated of a situation, can be “incontrovertibly” demonstrated. By the same token, I don’t think you’d be able to incontrovertibly demonstrate that the Iraq war is making us more safe overall. I do think that it’s probably possible to show that the evidence strongly points one way or the other, even though we can’t be 100% sure at this point.

    As for any news about portions being released – that’s possibly good news. I would hope that some more impartial third party could decide what is released – I can’t say that I have much more confidence in relying on Bush to sum it up for us than I do with unnamed sources telling us what it says.

  4. Osvaldo Says:

    Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday major policy changes are needed because the Iraq war has divided the nation “almost as much as Vietnam.”

    “So there's no doubt that our country is in much more danger now from terrorism than it would have been if we would have done what we should have done and stayed in Afghanistan,” he said on the campaign trail with his son, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Carter.

    The former president said the Bush administration made a “terrible mistake” by invading Iraq and diverting troops from Afghanistan.

    Jack Carter criticized his opponent, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., for supporting the Iraq war. Both Carters also said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should go.

    “I think he's one of the worst secretaries of defense we've ever had,” the former president said of Rumsfeld. “Almost every decision he has made has aggravated his military subordinates and has also proved to be a mistake.”