Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Highlights from National Intel Director Testimony

The new Director of National Intelligence, retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, and his staff testified before Congress yesterday. The highlights include:

Iran is training Iraqi Shia militants at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon. Senator Lieberman noted that this is very serious and recommended "we ought to consider taking steps to stop [this training] in defense of our soldiers."

3/4 of the old leadership of al Qaeda has been killed or captured

al Qaeda is reconstituting in the Fronteir Provinces of Pakistan, an area that is only nominally under Pakistan's control

al Qaeda is planning attacks throughout Europe, as well as in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq is the "cause celebre" for foreign jihadi recruitment. Note that I do not know whether Director McConnell was asked what the effect of a rapid withdrawal would be on jihadi recruitment.

The political situation in Iraq is difficult because Shia are not confident in their control of Iraq, the Sunnis act as if they are in control, and the Kurds are biding their time and protecting their position.

Democrats at the hearing complained because the National Intelligence Estimate included an assessment that a rapid withdrawal from Iraq would lead to chaos.

Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) was one of several Democrats who questioned the decision to include an assessment of a "rapid withdrawal" of coalition forces from Iraq as part of the recent National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE judgment was that such a withdrawal would increase violence and hasten deterioration of the situation in Iraq -- a finding that has since been cited by Bush and others who support a troop increase and oppose withdrawal.

National Intelligence Council Chairman Thomas Fingar, who supervised production of the NIE, told the Senate panel that "unquestionably and categorically" there had been no political pressure to shape the estimate.

"I'm not criticizing your bona fides," Bayh told Fingar, "but I do care about the credibility of your work product . . . and when you start down that slippery slope, you just get into these kinds of arguments."

The Democrat's reaction on this issue goes to the trouble that is at the center of the party right now -- how to make the greatest partisan advantage out of the war while not having to face responsiblity for any acts that they may take.

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