National Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism Released
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 27, 2006 The number of people identifying themselves as jihadists is increasing and spreading, but the United States has still made significant progress against terrorists, according to a declassified National Intelligence Estimate.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence yesterday released a declassified version of “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.” The estimate is dated April 2006.
The estimate looks at the threats posed by terrorists to the United States and its interests over the next five years. President Bush took the nearly unprecedented step of releasing the estimate following a leak to the media. Stories appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post over the weekend saying that the war in Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism to the United States.
Bush told Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte to declassify the key judgments of the report. “You can read it for yourself,” the president said yesterday during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “We'll stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy.”
The estimate said that the global jihadist movement, including al Qaeda, is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts. “If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide,” the estimate says.
The key passage in the estimate is that the Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists. The estimate says U.S. efforts in Iraq have bred deep distrust in the Muslim world and that jihadists are using the conflict to recruit new members. “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight,” the estimate says.
The estimate lists four factors fueling the spread of jihad: entrenched grievances, corruption, injustice and a sense of powerlessness; Iraq; the slow pace of reform in the Muslim world; and “pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims.”
The estimate lists the extremists’ vulnerabilities, as well. Their very extremism is unpopular with most Muslims, and violence directed against other Muslims is hurting them. Moderate Muslims have begun speaking out against the jihadists and their view of the world. This must continue. The estimate says, “In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.”
Democratic reform also must continue in the Muslim world.
The estimate says the loss of key leaders such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would probably cause the group to splinter. The U.S. Air Force killed Zarqawi June 7, after the report was completed.
The estimate says terrorists will continue to use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks on soft targets. It also says jihadists will continue to seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities.
Finally, the estimate concludes that “groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train and obtain logistical and financial support.”