Advertisement

The Nation | TEXT OF THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

`The Iraq Jihad Is Shaping a New Generation of Terrorist Leaders'

September 27, 2006|From the Associated Press

The declassified four pages of a 30-page National Intelligence Estimate, which represents a consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, made public Tuesday by the White House:

United States-led counter-terrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of Al Qaeda and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that Al Qaeda will continue to pose the greatest threat to the homeland and U.S. interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement, which includes Al Qaeda, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells, is spreading and adapting to counter-terrorism 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 U.S. 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 Qaeda, 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 U.S. counter-terrorism 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 U.S. 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-U.S. 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 ultraconservative interpretation of Sharia-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.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|