By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2006 – The classified national intelligence estimate, "Trends in Global Terrorism," was not just an examination of Iraq and international terrorism, but far broader, the director of national intelligence said here yesterday. John Negroponte, who spoke at a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars dinner, said news stories based on leaks of the estimate left an incorrect perception that it was solely about the relationship between Iraq and international terrorism.
"In fact, the estimate provides a broad strategic framework for understanding the trends that will define the primary international terrorist threats to United States' interests over the coming five years," he said. "It attempts to describe a process that started years ago and is continuing. The discussion of Iraq represents a small portion of the overall NIE."
Negroponte is the first director of national intelligence. The administration created the office to integrate foreign, military and domestic intelligence in defense of the homeland and of U.S. interests abroad.
Negroponte said the U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al Qaeda and disrupted its operations. "However, we judge that al Qaeda will continue to pose the most significant threat to the homeland and United States' interests abroad by any single terrorist group," he said.
The estimate says that the global jihadist movement is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts. The movement includes al Qaeda, affiliated terrorist groups, independent organizations and emerging networks and cells. "Several underlying factors are fueling this, including entrenched grievances such as corruption, injustice and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness," he said. "The Iraq jihad is also a factor, as is the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations."
Finally, he said, the jihadist groups exploit incipient anti-U.S. sentiments.
Negroponte said the global jihadist movement is becoming more diffuse. Independent radical cells will grow in importance to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
"The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives," he said. "However, should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves and be perceived to have failed, fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."
There are vulnerabilities in the movement. They include the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens, Negroponte said. "Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders," he said.
The director said more democracy, less corruption and more responsive political systems in Muslim nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. "Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al Qaeda, could erode support for the jihadists," he said.
Negroponte called the estimate a very broad summary of trends in global terrorism. "But that is the point," he said. "A national intelligence estimate provides a comprehensive assessment of major issues facing the United States, providing the best intelligence we can develop for policy makers."