Hoekstra: ‘Unanswered questions’ cloud decisions on Iraq
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.”
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.