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The classified portion of the National Intelligence Estimate downplays the effect of al-Qaeda in Iraq, declaring them to be a small minority of the Sunni terrorists. However, four of the sixteen intelligence agencies dissented from this view, including the intel units of the two forces fighting in Iraq. They believe that the Sunni insurgencies have been almost completely co-opted by AQI:
In a division reminiscent of the intelligence debates before the Iraq war, America's war fighters and satellite imagery experts have issued a formal dissent on one of the National Intelligence Estimate's most important judgments.
Disputing the view that Al Qaeda plays only a small role in the overall Sunni insurgency in Iraq, four of America's 16 intelligence agencies have obliged the Directorate of National Intelligence to provide a formal dissent to the 90-page classified Iraq assessment issued last week.
Those agencies include the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the military intelligence bureaus of the Army and Marines.
According to two sources familiar with the addendum, the dissenters argue that the Baathist wing of the umbrella Sunni terrorist group has ceded authority to Abu Ayoub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The majority view, endorsed by the CIA, the National Security Agency, the State Department, and others, holds that a majority of the Sunni insurgency is still comprised of Baathists and Sunni nationalists.
The unclassified NIE had only the barest hint of this internal dissent on AQI. The group, which pledges itself to the leadership of Osama bin Laden, only gets two mentions in the nine-page document, but both are prominent highlights of examples of terrorist groups. The first equates AQI with the Mahdi Army in the ability to keep sectarian violence stoked, while the second mentions AQI as primary among Sunni factions in the complex stew that comprises the overall violence.
The dissenters rely on a new assessment of the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group that at one time had AQI as a component. This group models itself on Hamas in its attempt to provide social services to the Sunnis in Iraq as a means of gaining political power. The Army and Marine Corps, as well as the other two dissenting agencies, believe that the MSC has been taken over completely by AQI, granting al-Qaeda leadership over all Sunni terrorist factions, including the Ba'athist remnants of Saddam's former regime. Marine Colonel Peter Devlin warned that AQI had won control of the MSC as part of its takeover in Anbar in September 2006, in the testimony that the Washington Post at the time said had told Congress that Anbar was close to being lost.
This is no mere academic exercise. If AQI has taken over control of the Sunni terrorists, then it gives strength to the Bush administration's argument that Iraq remains a central front in the war against al-Qaeda. If not, that argument has less direct evidence and has to rely on painting Iraq as a central battlefront in the overall war against radical Islamist terrorists of all stripes. That difference is as subtle as the dissent within in the intelligence community, but likely to have a grave impact on American resolve in Iraq.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» A Split On Al-Qaeda from Bill's Bites
A Split On Al-Qaeda Ed Morrissey The classified portion of the National Intelligence Estimate downplays the effect of al-Qaeda in Iraq, declaring them to be a small minority of the Sunni terrorists. However, four of the sixteen intelligence agencies di... [Read More]
Tracked on February 5, 2007 5:47 PM
» Bill's Nibbles -- 2007.02.05 from Old War Dogs
Some Bill's Bites posts, some things I excerpted and linked but I'm sending you to the original post. I may rearrange the order of the links within this post as I add new things that I think belong above the [Read More]
Tracked on February 5, 2007 5:49 PM
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