The media missed the real story regarding the
National Intelligence Estimate of the global terror threat. It's not what's
in the declassified executive summary of the report Iraq, which was unavoidable
it's what's absent from it Afghanistan, where the Taliban are
making a frightening and bloody comeback.
No where in the released "key judgments" of the NIE will you find
mention of Afghanistan or the Taliban. Yet the number of suicide bombings and
roadside blasts from improvised explosives in Afghanistan has mushroomed by
600 percent this year, according to NATO. The Taliban say they have so many
suicide bombers signed up to hit U.S. and other Western forces they can't even
arm them all.
Granted, the NIE was written in April. But the resurgence in Afghan violence
started well before that. And the NIE titled "Trends in Global Terrorism:
Implications for the United States" is supposed to be forward-looking,
predictive. Instead it's boilerplate.
The problems in Iraq are obvious. The U.S. intelligence community had no
choice but to cite Iraq (no less than six times, in fact) in its NIE.
But tell us something we don't already know, like how the Taliban are retaking
parts of southern Afghanistan. How Pakistan is the new base of operations for
al-Qaeda leaders. How the invasion and occupation of Iraq has bought the Taliban
and al-Qaeda time to regroup and launch new attacks hitting not just
Afghanistan but the heart of London.
The NIE is supposed to be the gold standard of intelligence, the best effort
of 16 spy agencies. We pay them a collective $40 billion a year to warn the
commander in chief and his security advisers about global threats. And the
best they can come up with after reportedly a year's worth of work is
pedestrian pap like, "We judge that [terror] groups of all stripes will
increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train,
and obtain logistical and financial support." Wow, you don't say. Good
that nugget was classified could have given the enemy ideas.
Our intelligence about the terror threat is pathetic. We still really know
very little about these people and what they're planning.
We thought Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had lost a leg. We thought Osama bin Laden
was killed in Tora Bora. We thought he was on the run. We thought he was hiding
in a cave. We thought he was on dialysis. We thought he was 6'5". Now the
French think he croaked from typhoid.
Please, until we have hard, on-the-ground human intelligence, we will continue
to be buffeted by silly rumors. And we won't have hard intelligence until we
penetrate al-Qaeda's inner circle, which will never happen while most of our
best intelligence assets are bogged down in the false front of Iraq.
If intelligence is our best weapon against terrorism, we are doomed.