Defense Intell Chief Outlines World Security Climate

By Jim Garamone

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency outlined the security environment for members of the Senate Intelligence Committee during testimony last week.

Navy Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby said the Iraqi security situation varies across the country.

Generally, the north and south of the country are quiet while the central region is the scene of most anti-coalition attacks. In the north, Kurds – under the umbrella of Operation Northern Watch, created a quasi-autonomous state, and the economy and infrastructure are largely intact. In the south, moderate Shia clerics and the Shia population support coalition efforts and oppose former regime elements.

"However, the situation could become volatile," Jacoby warned. "Shia backing for the coalition is based largely on expectations that a political structure based on an elected representative government serves their interests."

Insurgent attacks in central Iraq account for the vast majority of all incidents. "Anti-coalition activity centers in Sunni-dominated areas, especially west of Baghdad, around Mosul and along the Baghdad-Tikrit corridor," he said.

The coalition capture of Saddam Hussein reduced the morale and effectiveness of some former regime elements, but many "are motivated by Arab and Iraqi nationalism and self-interest and will continue the resistance, opposing the foreign presence and emerging new order."

But much of the Sunni population remains undecided on whether to back the coalition or support the opposition. "The key factor is whether stability can be established and whether viable alternatives to the Baathists or Islamists emerge," Jacoby said.

The number of anti-coalition attacks has declined since the post war high hit during November 2003, he said. However, foreign fighters are emerging as a threat.

"Fighters from numerous countries are reported to have entered Iraq," Jacoby said. "They are motivated by Arab nationalism, extremist religious ideology and/or resentment of U.S. policies and beliefs. Most are assessed to be linked to groups that hope to gain notoriety and increased support by conducting attacks in Iraq."

In Afghanistan, attacks against coalition forces by Taliban and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin terrorists continue. "The majority of the attacks are ineffective rocket or bomb attacks," he said. "However, recent attacks show increasing accuracy and sophistication."

The groups are targeting humanitarian assistance and reconstruction personnel; some organizations have suspended operations. "Upcoming political events such as the June 2004 presidential elections may prompt increases in violence," Jacoby told the senators.

Jacoby is worried about the safety of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Karzai’s ability to use his growing political strength to encourage compliance with his reform agenda may provide long term stability, but could result in near term tensions," he said.

"President Hamid Karzai remains critical to stability in Afghanistan. As a Pashtun, he remains the only individual capable of maintaining the trust of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group (Pashtuns) and support of other ethnic minorities," Jacoby noted. "A Taliban insurgency that continues to target humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts is a serious threat, potentially eroding commitments to stability and progress in Afghanistan."

The intelligence agency chief said that Pakistani assistance remains a key to a successful outcome in Afghanistan. "Pakistan has been more active against al Qaeda infrastructure, and Pakistani military operations have contributed to the disruption of al Qaeda sanctuaries, particularly in South Waziristan," he said.

Jacoby spoke at length about the threat al Qaeda poses. He said that despite 25 months of sustained pressure, the terrorist group continues to demonstrate it is an adaptable and capable threat.

"Their network has directed numerous attacks since 9/11, most recently in Istanbul and Riyadh," he said. "Al Qaeda continues to enjoy considerable support and is able to recruit terrorists. Capable but less experienced individuals are replacing those captured."

He said al Qaeda and other groups remain interested in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. "We remain concerned about rogue scientists and the potential that state actors are providing, or will provide, technological assistance to terrorist organizations," Jacoby said.

The admiral said that the agency is worried about terrorist use of man-portable air defense system missiles against civilian and military aircraft. He said this fear was underscored following the attack last fall against a commercial cargo aircraft in Baghdad and a failed attack against an El Al airliner in Mombassa in 2002.

A successful attack would produce a large number of casualties, international publicity and a significant economic impact on civil aviation, Jacoby said. "These systems are highly portable, easy to conceal, inexpensive, available in the global weapons market and instruction manuals are on the Internet," he said.

"Commercial aircraft are not equipped with countermeasures and commercial pilots are not trained in evasive measures. An attack could occur with little or no warning. Terrorists may attempt to capitalize on these vulnerabilities."

Jacoby said intelligence professionals are increasingly concerned over about ungoverned spaces. These are areas where national governments exercise little or no control. "Terrorist groups and narco-traffickers use these areas as sanctuaries to train, plan and organize, relatively free from interference," he said.

There are numerous ungoverned spaces around the world. These include the western provinces in Pakistan, portions of the southern Philippines, some Indonesian islands, Chechnya, rural areas in Burma, the Horn of Africa and areas in South America. But these are not simply empty areas, he said.

"Ungoverned spaces include densely populated cities where terrorists can congregate and prepare for operations with relative impunity," he said. "I believe these areas will play an increasingly important role in the war on terrorism as al Qaeda, its associated groups and other terrorist organizations use these areas as bases for operations."