Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Press Releases

Pessimism in the Intelligence Community
The overwhelmingly negative assessment of the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy laid out by John Negroponte and other leaders of the intelligence community in the annual worldwide threat assessment was surprisingly under-reported.

But buried in the bleak assessment, one of the starkest in recent reports, was a realistic outline of the spreading threats on multiple Islamist fronts that we are facing.

The report was notable for its candor and the end to the happy talk that has often made its way into assessments on the struggle against the _jihadist_ threat. What is amazing is that, five years and billions of dollars after 9-11, we are falling behind in the conflict. We are not even really competing in the field of ideas, and we have done little to mitigate the broader problems.

Part of the problem is that there is still no general consensus on who the enemy is and if a war exists. Until we decide that, little else of import can happen.

The enemy is the ideology and theology that is still be funded by billions of dollars a year to spread its poison. There are two different poisons-the Salafist-Sunni version funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and the Shia poison funded by Iran. Both are aimed at killing us before they turn on each other.

Yet we are fighting primarily a counterinsurgency war with almost no ideological component. The Islamist front groups in this country and Europe largely operate with impunity, and there is almost no effort to help true, fundamentalist Muslims who understand the danger of the Islamists to get their message out, either here or abroad.

Lt. Gen. Michael Maples said that al-Qaeda "has consistently recovered from losses of senior leadership," and that its "increasing cooperation with like-minded groups has improved its ability to facilitate, support and direct its objectives."

Negroponte said the group's leaders have found a haven in secure locations in Pakistan and added that Osama bin Laden's network maintains active connections "that radiate outward from their leaders' secure hide-out in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and Europe."

The assessment underscores how close we are to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the struggle against the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tipping point, where Afghanistan could reasonably expect to become a functioning state, appears to have past. The "open moment," discussed in my previous blog, is no longer there.

But is a mistake to focus solely on the geographic location of the old al Qaeda leadership. What is more important is the network that exists that wants to respond to the leadership even if they have no organic link to the al Qaeda organization. It is the ideology that is the unifying and driving force.

A second front in the Islamist movements, not always compatible with the al Qaeda/Sunni front, is now open and growing. The Shia Hezbollah is emboldened and Iran stands to gain from almost any of the probably bleak scenarios in Iraq.

Somalia may be a victory or a prelude to another ongoing, bleeding conflict that drains lives and resources, where the Islamists can ultimately regroup and come back.

The realism is refreshing. The reality is scary.
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