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Thursday, December 21, 2006

CIA Assessment: We Fail? We're Screwed

I picked this up from the Washington Times,/li> this morning. Now, I know a lot of people don't have faith in the CIA. They've been vilified, mocked, and generally kicked around. I'm betting that a lot of those detractors know little, if anything, abnout how intelligence work is conducted, and how invaluable such work is to the nation. The CIA has just finished running an assessment of what would happen if we fail in this war. Hold all your "pointer-out-of-the-obvious" jokes:

The CIA this month conducted a simulation of how the Iraq war affects the global jihadist movement, and one conclusion was that a U.S. loss would embolden al Qaeda to expand its ranks of terrorists as well as pick new strategic targets, according to sources familiar with the two-day exercise.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield confirmed to The Washington Times yesterday that the simulation took place in Northern Virginia. He declined to discuss its findings, saying that a final report is not finished and that the report will not be the intelligence community's official view. It will, however, be circulated within the community and possibly to U.S. policy-makers.

The exercise involved 75 CIA analysts and outside specialists. It was conducted by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis, within the agency's Counterterrorism Center.

A source familiar with the simulation said it was a "red team" exercise in which participants played the role of global jihadists and war-gamed how the U.S. involvement in Iraq will influence their terror movement.

Although it takes no policy positions, the simulation's key finding appears to bolster Mr. Bush's contention that a U.S. loss in Iraq will have far-reaching ramifications.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Bush said, "A lot of Americans understand the consequences of retreat. Retreat would embolden radicals. It would hurt the credibility of the United States. Retreat from Iraq would dash the hopes of millions who want to be free. Retreat from Iraq would enable the extremists and radicals to more likely be able to have safe haven from which to plot and plan further attacks."

Al Qaeda has made stopping democracy in Iraq a top priority, according to U.S. military officials. It has recruited hundreds of suicide bombers to come to Iraq and inflict mass casualties to spur a Sunni-Shi'ite Muslim civil war. The group wants to wear down U.S. troops to the point where they will retreat. Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to turn Iraq and other Middle East countries into hard-line Islamic states, U.S. military officials say.

One key finding from the "red team" exercise is that al Qaeda will follow past practices. Jihadists perceived the victory over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1988 as a seminal event that spawned the creation of al Qaeda under the direction of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda leaders thought that if jihadists could defeat a global power in one theater, it could bring down governments in other nations.

Six years later, when U.S. troops left Somalia after taking casualties at the hands of al Qaeda-trained Muslim fighters, it reaffirmed its feeling of invincibility and its belief that Western powers have a low threshold for casualties. After Somalia, al Qaeda -- and like-minded jihadists -- began attacking U.S. targets in the Persian Gulf region and ultimately struck America on September 11, 2001.

The CIA-sponsored simulation predicts that al Qaeda will view a U.S. defeat in Iraq as another jihadist victory over a superpower and one that will bring it even more terrorist recruits.

"When we did the simulation, the ramifications were enormous," said the source, who asked not to be named. The source said al Qaeda will proclaim, "God has given us a second victory over a superpower.

"Imagine what defeat in Iraq would do," said the source. "Al Qaeda picks new targets after it thinks it's won."

It's important to note the two paragraphs that are bolded above. If anyone has read Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower then you know that the analysis is dead on. It details Osama's drive to rid the Middle East of the infidel Western influence., and return them to the "Islamic paradise" that he envisioned.

We were driven from Somalia, and our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania became targets. The USS cole became a target. And utlimately, the World Trade Center towers were brought down. RETREAT urges the Islamicists to hit us again. They won't back down once they have a victory under their belt. After the Soviet departure from Afghanistan in the late eighties, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia, and was bankrolled by elements of the royal family, including Prince Turki,/li> who was in charge of Saudi Arabi's intelligence service. Eventually, there was a falling out, but up to that point, the two enjoyed a solid working relationship, despite disagreements over tactics and strategies.

Assessments like this are commonplace in the government, and it doesn't just encompass those who work for our intelligence services. They go to outside experts, former intelligence officers, etc. to get a working viewpoint of what things are like. And they're assessment, while obvious, is still one that should be noted by those concerned with this war. On one side, we have the Neville Chamberlain Memorial Commission and the extreme nutters of the Democrat party calling for withdrawal. On the other hand are people who understand that a removal of troops means that our enemy is going to dig in, and come at us even harder than before.

What's worse is that we have intelligence showing that al-Qaeda is working with other groups in Iraq. Among them are al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which is being trained and equipped by Iran and Hezbollah. People keep saying that the Shi'a extremists and Sunni al-Qaeda will never work together. But this isn't a direct union of Iran with al-Qaeda. These are battlefield alliances; ones that are just as easily broken as they are made. And as long as such alliances continue in Iraq, we have problems. In addition to that, we have the problem of Somalia, again. Since the Islamicists took over there, al-Qaeda fighters have been migrating there to reinforce the Islamic hold over the country. Should al-Qaeda realize that they're beaten in Iraq, they have a new sanctuary to hide in.

Our enemies are relentless. Retreat from Iraq means a retreat fromt he overall war, and that spells disaster for the nation. It's a mistake we can't afford to make, so it's time for the US to dig in now. We don't give them an inch. Our soldiers are told to destroy the enemy, not take the PC approach to combat. Casualties, including civilians, are deplorable, but they are a cause of war. We can do our best to avoid such mistakes, but we can't be perfect. Not when our soldier's lives are on the line, and our future is, as well. And personally speaking, I'd give this report more credence than the ISG report. THIS is the report I hope the president pays the most attention to.

Publius II


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