U.S. intel report: Iraq War could 'professionalize' Al Qaida

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A new U.S. strategy report warns that the war in Iraq could result in a far stronger Al Qaida-aligned network.

The report by the National Intelligence Council said that the Sunni war against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq could enhance the capabilities of Al Qaida and related groups. The council envisioned that the Islamic insurgency, led by a new leader, would expand beyond the Middle East to Asia and Europe, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It [war in Iraq] could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself," the report, entitled "Mapping the Global Future," said.

"Facilitated by global communications, the revival of Muslim identity will create a framework for the spread of radical Islamic ideology inside and outside the Middle East, including Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Western Europe, where religious identity has traditionally been strong."

In a forecast of the next 15 years, the 119-page unclassified report said insurgency operatives in Iraq could become the new leaders of Al Qaida. These insurgents might acquire capabilities to develop biological weapons or even nuclear bombs.

"Our greatest concern is that terrorists might acquire biological agents or, less likely, a nuclear device, either of which could cause mass casualties," the report, the third which sought to predict global trends until 2020, said. "Bioterrorism appears particularly suited to the smaller, better-informed groups."

The report, based on interviews with 1,000 experts around the world, does not envision an abatement in Islamic insurgency attacks over the next 15 years. Instead, the report cited the prospect of increased links and support between Islamic insurgency groups, including those from Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir, the Palestinian Authority and Thailand.

"Even in the best of scenarios, there is a likelihood that jihadists not killed in Iraq will dissipate to various countries or sanctuaries," David Low, the National Intelligence Office for Transnational Threats, told a briefing on Jan. 14.

Islamic insurgents would be aided by the Internet, the report said. Internet could provide training materials, targeting guidance, weapons expertise and funds for insurgents.

"Information technology, allowing for instant connectivity, communication, and learning, will enable the terrorist threat to become increasingly decentralized, evolving into an eclectic array of groups, cells, and individuals that do not need a stationary headquarters to plan and carry out operations," the report said.

Copyright 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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