CIA ex­er­cise shows de­feat would aid al Qaeda’s reach

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The CIA this month con­ducted a sim­u­la­tionofhowtheIraqwaraf­fects the­glob­alji­hadist­move­ment,an­done con­clu­sion was that a U.S. loss would em­bolden al Qaeda to ex­pand its ranksoft­er­ror­ist­saswellaspick­new strate­gic­tar­gets,ac­cord­ing­tosources familiar with the two-day ex­er­cise.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield con­firmed­toTheWash­ing­tonTimes on Dec. 20 that the sim­u­la­tion took place in North­ern Vir­ginia. He de­clined to dis­cuss its find­ings, say­ing that a fi­nal re­port is not fin­ished and that the re­port will not be the intelligence com­mu­nity’s of­fi­cial view. It will,how­ever,be­cir­cu­lat­ed­with­inthe com­mu­nity and pos­si­bly to U.S. pol­icy-mak­ers.

The ex­er­cise in­volved 75 CIA an­a­lysts and out­side spe­cial­ists. It was con­ducted by the CIA’s Of­fice of Ter­ror­ism Anal­y­sis, within the agency’s Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter.

A source familiar with the sim­u­la­tion said it was a “red team” ex­er­cise in which par­tic­i­pants played the role of global ji­hadists and wargamed how the U.S. in­volve­ment in Iraq will in­flu­ence their ter­ror move­ment.

Al­though it takes no pol­icy po­si­tions,thes­im­u­la­tion’skeyfind­in­gap­pearsto­bol­sterMr.Bush’scon­tention that a U.S. loss in Iraq will have far­reach­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

At a press con­fer­ence, Mr. Bush said, “A lot of Amer­i­cans un­der­stand the con­se­quences of re­treat. Re­treat­wouldem­bold­en­rad­i­cals.It would hurt the cred­i­bil­ity of the United States. Re­treat from Iraq would dash the hopes of mil­lions who want to be free. Re­treat from Iraq would en­able the ex­trem­ists and rad­i­cals to more likely be able to­havesafe­haven­fromwhich­to­plot and plan fur­ther at­tacks.”

Al Qaeda has made stop­ping democ­racy in Iraq a top pri­or­ity, ac­cord­ing­toU.S.mil­i­tary­of­fi­cials.Ithas re­cruited hun­dreds of sui­cide bombers to come to Iraq and in­flict mass ca­su­al­ties to spur a Sun­niShi’ite Mus­lim civil war. The group wantstowear­downU.S.troop­stothe point where they will re­treat. Al Qaeda’s ul­ti­mate goal is to turn Iraq an­dotherMid­dleEast­coun­triesinto hard-line Is­lamic states, U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say.

One key find­ing from the “red team” ex­er­cise is that al Qaeda will fol­low past prac­tices. Ji­hadists per­ceived the vic­tory over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1988 as a sem­i­nal event that spawned the cre­ation of al Qaeda un­der the di­rec­tion of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda lead­ers thought that if ji­hadists could de­feat a global power in one theater, it could bring down gov­ern­ments in other na­tions.

Six years later, when U.S. troops left So­ma­lia af­ter tak­ing ca­su­al­ties at the hands of al Qaeda-trained Mus­lim fight­ers, it reaf­firmed its feel­ing of in­vin­ci­bil­ity and its be­lief that West­ern pow­ers have a low thresh­old for ca­su­al­ties. Af­ter So­ma­lia, al Qaeda — and like-minded ji­hadists — be­gan at­tack­ing U.S. tar­gets in the Per­sian Gulf re­gion and ul­ti­mately struck Amer­ica on Septem­ber 11, 2001.

The CIA-spon­sored sim­u­la­tion pre­dicts that al Qaeda will view a U.S. de­feat in Iraq as an­other ji­hadist vic­tory over a su­per­power and one that will bring it even more ter­ror­ist re­cruits.

“When we did the sim­u­la­tion, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions were enor­mous,” said the source, who asked not to be named. The source said al Qaeda will pro­claim, “God has given us a sec­ond vic­tory over a su­per­power.

“Imag­ine what de­feat in Iraq would do,” said the source. “Al Qaeda picks new tar­gets af­ter it thinks it’s won.”

This per­son ex­pressed un­hap­pi­ness that the Iraq Study Group, a bi­par­ti­san panel led by for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for­mer Rep. Lee H. Hamil­ton, de­voted less than a page to what a loss in Iraq would mean for global ter­ror­ism.

The source said he hopes the CIA re­port is cir­cu­lated within the ad­min­is­tra­tion to drive home the point that the stakes are high in Iraq. Mr. Bush is set to an­nounce early next year new strate­gies and tac­tics for win­ning in Iraq. He pre­vi­ously has dis­missed pro­pos­als from Democrats to pull out all 135,000 U.S. troops now or with­draw them on a set timetablere­gard­lessofeventson­the ground.

Mr. Mansfield said the Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter this year has spon­sored 20 in­ter­nal sim­u­la­tions, sem­i­nars and con­fer­ences us­ing out­side ex­perts to ex­am­ine is­sues re­lated to the war on ter­ror.

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