IISS Report: Al Qaida has 18,000 'jihadists' in 100 nations
U.S. did not foresee Saddam's troops merging with Al Qaida
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, October 16, 2003
LONDON Ñ The International Institute for Strategic Studies said in its annual
report that Al Qaida has formed an alliance with the deposed regime of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein to strike U.S. interests throughout Iraq.
The London-based institute said in a report that the U.S.-led coalition was
unprepared for Saddam's strategy of withdrawing his regular forces and
converting them into insurgents aligned with Al Qaida.
Al Qaida, the report said, appears unable to stage a repeat of the Sept.
11, 2001 suicide attacks on New York and Washington. But the group, with an
estimated 18,000 trained insurgents spread over 100 countries, remains
powerful and could adopt the strategy of Hizbullah when it killed nearly 300
Americans in suicide attacks in Lebanon in the early 1980s.
"Al Qaida may lack the capacity to stage a mass-casualty attack on U.S.
soil comparable to 9/11, but it is worth recalling that the operational
cycle for large and complex Al Qaida operations can exceed the 25 months
that have passed since 9/11," the institute's "Military Balance 2003-2004,"
"In any case, jihadists could regard a spectacular attack on U.S.
personnel in Iraq Ñ like Hizbullah's 1983 suicide-bombing of the Marine
barracks in Lebanon, which killed 241 Ñ as a feasible substitute until it
is ready to attempt another mass-casualty attack on American soil."
The report said Al Qaida was not affected by the U.S. military
withdrawal from Saudi Arabia in September. Instead, the group has enhanced
recruitment and intends to develop weapons of mass destruction, including
toxins such as
ricin as well as procure man-portable air-defence systems available in Iraq.