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CIA Studies Provide Glimpse of Insurgents in Iraq

Analysis Describes Groups of Fighters, Gives Clearer Picture of Their Operations

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page A19

As reflected in CIA classified studies last month, U.S. military and intelligence officials are still trying to understand the various Iraqi insurgency groups that they expect will continue to fight, even after last week's election.

The CIA studies included a detailed look at an at-large Iraqi fighter who is motivated to fight because the United States is occupying his country, a senior intelligence official said.

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"This person, with a tribal background, has a mix of motives including a family grievance, someone was hurt by coalition forces," said the official, who asked not to be identified because the reports are still classified. "There is also [in this Iraqi insurgent] religion and nationalism that results in a view he must fight on to get non-Muslims out of Muslim territory."

In looking in depth at one insurgent, the agency was able to describe the group to which the fighter belongs and how it operates, the official said.

The CIA last month also updated its analysis of the breadth of the Iraqi insurgency, including Iraqis that are not only former Baathists, "dead enders," but also newly radicalized Sunni Iraqis, nationalists offended by the occupying force and others disenchanted by the economic turmoil and destruction caused by the fighting.

Foreign fighters associated with Abu Musab Zarqawi and his al Qaeda-affiliated insurgent group, who once were seen as the prime opponents along with tens of thousands of criminals freed by Saddam Hussein before the war began in 2003, are now described as lesser elements but still a source of danger.

Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst who ran the agency's Osama bin Laden section in the 1990s, said yesterday, "The administration doesn't seem to have thought through the continuing danger from foreign fighters."

He said countries such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria in the 1980s released imprisoned Islamic radicals to go fight the Soviets in Afghanistan "hoping they would die in the process." Now, Scheuer said, "Iraq is a more attractive fight for those radicals, and the Saudis currently want to unload the firebrands they have at home." The Sunni government in Riyadh is also unhappy with the prospect of a Shiite state on the border, he added, "so they think it is a great thing for their people to do."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week on CNN's "Larry King Live" that the insurgency "has clearly been . . . more intense than had been anticipated." He said that "in many instances, the ones . . . that are fomenting this insurgency" were members of the Sunni Iraqi army division in the north that were not captured or killed because U.S. troops could not invade through Turkey.

But Rumsfeld added that the future level of fighting could depend on this question: "To what extent do Iran and Syria not cooperate and make the insurgency worse?"

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who disclosed the existence of the CIA reports during testimony last Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, could not say how many insurgents there are.

"We know the elements of the threat very well," Myers said, but "to come up with accurate estimates is just very, very difficult in this type of insurgency."

Members, however, focused on the numbers because, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) put it: "I don't know how you defeat an insurgency unless you have some handle on the number of people that you are facing."

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), ranking Democrat on the panel, said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., head of the Multinational Force Iraq, reported during a closed hearing two weeks ago that the coalition forces killed or captured 15,000 suspected insurgents last year, a number far larger than earlier U.S. estimates of 6,000 to 9,000.

McCain raised the question of the reliability of any figures the administration offered. "We went from a few dead enders to killing or capturing 15,000 in the period of a year, and that's why there's a certain credibility problem here as to what the size and nature of the enemy we face."

Myers said that there are classified estimates, but that it is difficult to get accurate numbers because "there are so many fence-sitters."

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