Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.By funding an Islamic insurgency in Afghanistan in the 1980s, we (that is, the Reagan regime) sowed the dragon's teeth that we ended up reaping on 9-11. After displacing Afghanistan as the prime locale for Islamist militancy, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq undid the good work we had done in Afghanistan by creating a new space for a whole new generation of terrorists to gain their seasoning. Sad to say, the skills the insurgents are learning in combatting the U.S. in close quarters in Iraq will be applied globally for the next generation. The Osama bin Laden of the 2020s is all too likely to be some young man coming up in Iraq today.
Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."
Low's comments came during a rare briefing by the council on its new report on long-term global trends. It took a year to produce and includes the analysis of 1,000 U.S. and foreign experts. Within the 119-page report is an evaluation of Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists....
"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."
Before the U.S. invasion, the CIA said Saddam Hussein had only circumstantial ties with several al Qaeda members. Osama bin Laden rejected the idea of forming an alliance with Hussein and viewed him as an enemy of the jihadist movement because the Iraqi leader rejected radical Islamic ideals and ran a secular government....
"The al-Qa'ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq," the report says.
According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts -- including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand -- that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.
At the same time, the report says that by 2020, al Qaeda "will be superseded" by other Islamic extremist groups that will merge with local separatist movements. Most terrorism experts say this is already well underway. The NIC says this kind of ever-morphing decentralized movement is much more difficult to uncover and defeat.
Terrorists are able to easily communicate, train and recruit through the Internet, and their threat will become "an eclectic array of groups, cells and individuals that do not need a stationary headquarters," the council's report says. "Training materials, targeting guidance, weapons know-how, and fund-raising will become virtual (i.e. online)."