Sep 27 2006

An Accurate Reading Of The NIE

Published by at 8:16 am under All General Discussions,Bin Laden/GWOT,Iraq

[Warning: this is a long post analyzing the entire NIE release properly, without removing context or cherry-picking] The media is terrible at reading comprehension, as has been proven time and time again. From the erroneous reporting on the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program (were they wrongly claimed the NSA was bypassing the NSA when in fact NSA leads were for the first time being used to identify and monitor possible terrorists in the USA via FISA warrants) to the GITMO abuse claims, our ‘reporters’ cannot read and understand what they have read. Whether it is lack of skill or partisan blinders is irrelevant. It is beyond them. I see this all the time when the media tries to report on NASA or military programs. It is embarrassing most of the time. Unless the news media enlist the help of career subject matter experts, they get lost rapidly.

The recently unclassified sections of the NIE are a perfect example. Where the media cherry picks what they want to support their pre-conceived delusions, a fair reading of the document is very different. Especially to someone like me who has worked in the bowels of the federal government for years and understands the process and product of a consensus report (where all dissent, even the slightest in emphasis, has been removed). Everyone is now free to read and digest the document itself. But many will attempt to synthesize and interpret. So let’s see what the NIE says about the views of the country’s Intelligence Community (IC):

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.

Needless to say the nesting of the paragraphs and bullets is very important. The press will cherry pick one or two things from this grouping, but the IC has combined all these elements under one heading with sub-bullets to describe one aspect of the IC concensus. The IC would not separate these statements and take them out of context – that is why they were structured this way. Beware any reporting that violates the intent of the IC.

This first section is a overview of where we are. Cleary the IC sees terrorism as having been dealt serious blows to its organization, leadership and operations. Translation: we have been very successful. But the consensus is, while we have severely hit the movement, it is not giving up yet. Instead it is adapting – which should put our news media on notice since they have helped the terrorists adapt by leaking classified material regularly on all aspects of our efforts, including on going investigations. It is telling that that gem of information has never shown up in the compliant news media.

The terrorists’ adaptation is to spread out support away from our targetted enemies. In essence it is a strategy to retreat and regroup. And though this is happening, the other great news in this is the Jihadist movement remains a small fraction of the Muslim population. Which means the Arab street backlash everyone predicted, and still claim is happening, is not happening. The second bullet says if we take our eyes off these adaptations we will find ourselves back to a higher threat level (because we have undercut much of the threat in taking out our primary targets). This section concludes the growing threat is best neutralized through democratization and other political solutions in Muslim countries to defuse the call to Jihad. Somehow the press only caught on to the adaptation the terrorists are attempting in light of the pummeling they have taken – ignoring the fact of the pummeling. Classic news media reporting: faulty and inaccruate. So, what else does the NIE say?

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.

Following from the first conclusion, we see the Jihadists have become spread to the wind. Unlike much of the reporting on this section, it is clear we have the terrorists in a dynamic and handicapped position. They are retreating and re-grouping. Their adaptation was to spread out support to new locations, but in doing so they are now also fractured and without proven lines of support or safe havens. They are in uncharted waters and dealing with new people. In essence they are vulnerable. Being spread out to new, untested cells without the hardened experience and discipline has obvious ramifications for error and mistep. I read this as saying “don’t hold back, don’t let up, press onward”. The terrorsts have been hit and dispersed and are attempting to regroup. The misreportings in the media are because these conclusions are being taken out of context and attempts to make them stand on their own without context. Thus their mistaken conclusions.

The sub bullets emphasize the challenges we face now, that we have hit them hard and dispersed our enemies. The IC rightfully states that new cells with fresh faces mean we cannot focus on the known terrorists, but must be on the look out for the previously unkown ones. In other words, we cannot dismantle our monitoring of the enemy as the left demands. It goes on to say the populations most likely to harbor these new cell are in Europe, where Muslim immigrants have not been integrated into European societies. It does say we need to watch Muslims in this country too. This is so non-PC I am not surprised the media chopped this section apart and misreported on it. Next:

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.

Translation: Iraq is seen as the central battle in the Jihadist War on The West. Lose Iraq and the enemy’s ranks will swell with enthusiasm and confidence. Win in Iraq and it will likely cripple the movement for good. This is from the IC folks and completely contradicts the cut-and-run plans of the Democrats. These sentences are never produced in tandem like they are in the report and have been here. This is one conclusion being presented here. Iraq is everything for our future. Next the NIE discusses the factors which are keeping the Jihadist movement afloat

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.

So here are the factors fueling the continued, but small, support of Jihad in the Muslim population. Iraq is one and, interestingly, the easiest to deal with. Old grievances, the Muslim failures at ecomonic success, etc are decades long efforts which will require a balance of support which cannot be used to fuel anger and attacks back at us. This one conclusion delineates the effort ahead of us. Winning Iraq will squash the Jihadist movement – but only temporarily. The root causes must be addressed in order to make sure the fustration levels do not rise again. This is why democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the US as their ally, is so important. It provides for success for Muslims and respect from the West. But of course there are other ways to address these inherent problems, and the NIE identifies high potential solutions

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.

Again, the perscription to Jihadism is open political debate, peaceful opposition, a stake in the future – all elements of a strong democracy. This is why the IC sees Iraq as the pivot point. If we succeed there we can reduce our activities to capture and kill and focus more on building representative governments which offer the opportunity to success, and the alternative to Jihad. Again, this the consensus of the IC community folks. As much as the Democrats and antique media hate to face facts, this is where the consensus lies. Finish the job in Iraq. This is emphasized in the very next paragraph:

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.

This is an obvious warning that political transitions mean change, and change can be disruptive or uncomfortable. These aspects of change can be exploited by our enemy. But it does not say give up. It does not say run away from Iraq. It says to stay focused and determined and be prepared to adapt to challenges. Again, not what the left wants to face up to. What follows is an example of the kind of exploitatin we face:

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.

Interestingly, this part of the NIE references conditions since changed in Iraq – namely the killing of Zarqawi. It is clear killing the leaders further degrades the jihadists, which naturally collapse into smaller, less organized groups (which are in ways easier to isolate and deal with). Note the concern Al Qaeda will stop attacking Muslims and Iraqis and thus gain support. We have not seen Al Qaeda learn this lesson yet, but now that some liberal partisan in the IC has forced the exposure of this NIE they will obviously take note and adjust. One more example of the left crippling our efforts in their vain quest for votes.

But back to the NIE (now that we are in the home stretch). The IC notes the biggest concern in Iraq are the foreign supported terrorist organizations. These have to be dealt with (which is tough to do when our resources are redeployed to Okinawa as some liberal democrats have naively proposed). The concern here is once these Sunni associated terrorist groups (and Al Qaeda is a Sunni based terrorist movement) lose interest in Iraq they will look elsewhere for targets:

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.

Translation: After Iraq and after Bin Laden we still have a ways to go. And that is after succeeding in Iraq. All surrendering will do is embolden these fledgling new centers of Jihad. As the other sections noted, we hit them hard and what was left dispersed and is trying to start afresh. So we need to continue fighting on. If this translates in leftward political circles here in the US to ‘Stay The Course’ then so be it. Because if we release the pressure, if we stop pressing in the ME, the result will be a flood of activity spreading out to Europe and here to America. And it will be a wave of carnage very difficult to defend without something nearing martial law:

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.

Thankfully the terrorists are still without WMD tools at their disposal. But they are still trying to acquire them (I am guessing CBRN stands for “Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear”). But the prediction is clear. If we release the pressure the terrorists will flood into our neighborhoods to kill as many unarmed innocents as possible. That is chilling. Finally, there is a remnant at the end of this de-classified NIE segment which has some final tidbits clearly collected from other sections of the NIE:

While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active statesponsors 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.

This is ominous because it doesn’t address Jihadists – it is referring to ‘leftists’ and ‘nationalists’. This brings to mind North Korea or Venezuela or some other hot spot in the world. Basically this says that we need to be watchful to other threats if they think we are too distracted with the Jihadists. This seems to be one of those points of confusion with antique media. What is happening is not the growth of terrorism, but the idea that terrorist tactics are being looked at and adopted by other threats. This is not a good result, and it would also be escalated if we do run from Iraq. Running from Iraq will send a signal to everyone that terrorism works on the US.

The media has clearly misread or misrepresented these findings. You cannot separate the dispersion of Jihadists from the fact the dispersion was caused by our highly successful attacks on them. The dispersion is not as much adding strength as a tactic of retreat and regrouping. These conclusions cannot have their elements taken out of the context intended by the IC itself. Of course dispersion could imply a growing threat if one doesn’t have the information in the leading paragraph that set the stage for the dispersion.

What is also clear is that Iraq is critical to our efforts short and long term. If we follow the democrat proposals the jihadists will swell in ranks and come emboldened to our shores in waves. Right now the jihadists are a small fraction of the Muslim world. We cannot allow them to grow in popularity by retreating and giving up on the systemic solution of democracy in the ME. And we need to understand Iraq and Al Qaeda are not the end of the efforts we face in this conflict. America deserves to know the stakes in this battle and, sadly, the media and liberal talking heads are clearly misrepresenting the stakes for some kind of political advantage.

I do not support partisan games becoming games of life-and-death. Too many on the left are betting it all on a variation of Russian Roulette. Spin is one thing. But lying to America about what is happening and the meaning of our choices, and the deaths these choices will result in, is not spin. All future paths will result in some deaths – ours or the terrorists it seems. The only question is will these be deaths that lead to a bright or dark future. Now that we have the NIE we, America, chose our path this fall.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “An Accurate Reading Of The NIE”

  1. opinionsarefree says:

    From the NIE,

    “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.”

    The success AQ and affiliates are having in Somalia now is certainly bringing some of this light.

  2. Terrye says:

    I think the internet has spawned a new age of the anarchist. Remember them?

  3. MerlinOS2 says:

    Note to everyone!

    Go over to JOM and read Dale in Atlanta’s commentary about the NIE

    He has multiple comments, read them all!