Hoek­stra: ‘Unan­swered ques­tions’ cloud de­ci­sions on Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The chair­man of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence­sayshe­has­trav­eled­toIraqeight times to as­sess U.S. intelligence col­lec­tion, and each time he re­turns to Wash­ing­ton struck by the lack of knowl­edge about the in­sur­gency that is killing hun­dreds of Amer­i­can troops.

“When I come back from Iraq, or even a brief­ing here, you learn how tough­in­tel­li­gen­ceis,”saidRep.Peter Hoek­stra, Michi­gan Repub­li­can. “I don’t walk out of there be­liev­ing that I’ve got a crys­tal-clear pic­ture of what the in­sur­gency is, what the scope of it is, what the mag­ni­tude is, whatthe­ca­pa­bil­i­tiesare.How­much is in­ter­na­tional? How much is ex­ter­nal? How much is al Qaeda? How much is Ira­nian? How much is Syr­ian? I walk out with lots of unan­swered ques­tions.”

The fact that U.S. com­mand lacks broad­knowl­edge­about­theen­e­myin Iraq, in the opin­ion of Mr. Hoek­stra and oth­ers, has brought a steady stream of crit­i­cism.

Most re­cently, the Iraq Study Group,abi­par­ti­san­com­mis­sion­ledby for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for­mer Rep. Lee H. Hamil­ton,re­ported,“Our­gov­ern­ment still does not un­der­stand very well ei­therthein­sur­gen­cy­inIraqorthe­role of the mili­tias.”

The Iraq Study Group re­port said intelligence agen­cies “are not do­ing enoughtomapthein­sur­gency,dis­sect it and un­der­stand it on a na­tional and pro­vin­cial level. The an­a­lytic com­mu­nity’s knowl­edge of the or­ga­ni­za­tion,lead­er­ship,fi­nancin­gan­d­op­er­a­tions of mili­tias, as well as their re­la­tion­ship to gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity forces, also falls far short of what pol­icy-mak­ers need to know.”

De­fense sources have told The Wash­ing­ton Times that when field com­man­ders re­turn to the U.S. from Iraq,one­oftheirchief­com­plaintsisa lack on in­for­ma­tion about the en­emy.

MichaelLedeen,amil­i­tary­an­a­lyst attheAmer­i­canEn­ter­priseIn­sti­tute, said the U.S. will never gain the full sup­port of the Iraqi peo­ple, and thus bet­ter tips, un­til the lo­cals are con­fi­dent of a U.S. vic­tory.

“For­peo­ple­to­thinkwe­havea­good chance­towin,they­have­toseeus­beat­ing Iran and Syria,” said Mr. Ledeen, re­fer­ring to the two coun­tries sup­port­ingth­ein­sur­gency.“Wewillnever havethe­full­co­op­er­a­tionofthep­eo­ple ofIraqun­tilpeo­ple­seewearewag­ing war against Iran and Syria.”

He said the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is re­view­ing Iraq strat­egy, should start by help­ing fo­ment in­sur- rec­tion against Iran’s hard-line Is­lamic lead­ers and pro­vide sup­port to dis­si­dents in Syria.

The Pen­tagon’s De­fense In­tel­li­genceA­gen­cy­la­beledas“in­ac­cu­rate” the Iraq Study Group’s as­ser­tion that the DIA had fewer than 10 an­a­lysts with more than two years of ex­pe­ri­ence ex­am­in­ing the in­sur­gency. The agency said it has more than 300 an­a­lysts­fo­cuse­donIraq,49ofwhom­look ex­clu­sively at the in­sur­gency.

“DIAis­com­mit­ted­to­pro­vid­ingthe best pos­si­ble mil­i­tary intelligence to the men and women in uni­form and tothen­ation­init­songo­ing­wara­gainst ter­ror­is­man­dex­trem­ism,”theagency said.

Mr. Hoek­stra is sym­pa­thetic to­ward the intelligence com­mu­nity’s chal­lenge in Iraq.

“I think you have to take a look at it two ways,” he said. “You have to take a look at it and say, ‘The intelligence may be ter­ri­ble, but does that mean thein­tel­li­gence­ca­pa­bil­i­ty­is­ter­ri­ble?’ It just may be very, very hard.”

Headded,“Thi­siso­ne­of­thethings I do have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion with the intelligence com­mu­nity on, is that the stan­dard has been, the in­for­ma­tion you give us has to be as clear as ‘two plust­wo­is­four.’Any­thin­g­lessthanthat gold stan­dard of giv­ing us per­fect in­for­ma­tion­meansthatthein­tel­li­gence is­ter­ri­ble.[...]Some­timesIsensethat pol­icy-mak­ers be­lieve if they get per­fect in­for­ma­tion from intelligence, it gives­themthean­sweras­towhat­todo. Thatis­not­go­ing­to­hap­pen.You’llonly have more or less in­for­ma­tion with which to make a de­ci­sion.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

This im­age made from un­dated video re­leased Dec. 19 by the Iraqi gov­ern­ment shows three men stand­ing in a row shortly be­fore they were hanged. Iraqi au­thor­i­ties ex­e­cuted 13 men by hang­ing af­ter they were con­victed of mur­der and kid­nap­ping, lin­ing them up in hoods and green jump­suits with their hands re­strained be­hind their backs.

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