Thursday, June 23, 2005

CIA says Iraq is now a terrorist training ground

Thanks, Junior. We have never been in more danger! Cannot possibly express our gratitude, you SOBs

By Reuters

06/22/05 - - WASHINGTON (Reuters)
- The CIA believes the Iraq insurgency poses an international threat and may produce better-trained Islamic terrorists than the 1980s Afghanistan war that gave rise to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, officials said on Wednesday.

A classified report from the U.S. spy agency says Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of skills, from car bombings and assassinations to coordinated conventional attacks on police and military targets, officials said.

Once the insurgency ends, Islamic militants are likely to disperse as highly organized battle-hardened combatants capable of operating throughout the Arab-speaking world and in other regions including Europe.

Fighters leaving Iraq would primarily pose a challenge for their countries of origin including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

But the May report, which has been widely circulated in the intelligence community, also cites a potential threat to the United States.

"You have people coming to the action with anti-U.S. sentiment ... And since they're Iraqi or foreign Arabs or to some degree Kurds, they have more communities they can blend into outside Iraq," said a U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the report's classified status.

Canada also released an intelligence report saying the Sunni insurgency in Iraq posed a global problem given that most of the world's Sunni Muslims live outside the Middle East.

"The current war in Iraq is creating a whole new set of extremists," the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said in a briefing document obtained by Reuters.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon official said the CIA report appeared to be a synthesis of intelligence information already known to military commanders in the Gulf region.

Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic militants similar to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan two decades ago and Bosnia in the 1990s, U.S. officials say.

Bin Laden won prominence as a U.S. ally in the war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He later used Afghanistan as the training center for his al Qaeda network, which is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York.

President Bush justified the invasion of Iraq in part by charging that Saddam Hussein was supporting al Qaeda. A U.S. inquiry later found no collaboration between prewar Iraq and the bin Laden network.

But since the invasion, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has emerged as a key insurgent figure and pledged his allegiance to bin Laden.

While the Afghan war against the Soviets was largely fought on a rural battlefield, the CIA report said Iraq is providing extremists with more comprehensive skills including training in operations devised for populated urban areas.

"You have everything from bombings and assassinations to more or less conventional attacks," the counterterrorism official said.

"The urban warfare experience, for people facing fairly tight police and military activity at close quarters, should enable them to operate in a wider range of settings."

Vice President Dick Cheney has argued that the insurgency is in its last throes, despite reports that the guerrillas have grown more deadly.

CIA Director Porter Goss told Time magazine that the insurgency was not quite in its last throes, "but I think they are very close to it." 

© Reuters 2005. 

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