By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said last night that the war in Iraq is generating a new generation of jihadist leaders and operatives but that the United States can still root them out by continuing to fight in Iraq.
If jihadist efforts in Iraq fail "or be perceived to have failed, fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight," Negroponte said at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
He made it clear that the fighting in Iraq is one of only several factors influencing the global terrorist threat to the United States -- factors described in a still-classified National Intelligence Estimate that has received heavy political attention since being reported over the weekend.
The intelligence chief's remarks came at the end of a long-planned speech on the role of science and technology in intelligence activities, and they thrust him into a political debate between Democrats and the White House, generated by the disclosure of elements of the 30-page NIE.
Sources familiar with that document have said that it characterizes the war in Iraq as expanding the terrorist threat to the United States.
Beginning by observing that "Iraq represents a small portion of the overall NIE," Negroponte covered at greater length other elements involved in promoting the terrorist threat, points he made in a short statement Sunday.
In that statement, he said the NIE "highlighted the importance of the outcome in Iraq," but he did not include what he said last night: "The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."
The NIE, completed in April and sent to the House and Senate intelligence committees, created little stir at the time because it was consistent, Negroponte said last night, with "our assessments on previous occasions."
In describing reasons for the growth and spread of terrorist groups, Negroponte listed the "Iraq jihad" behind others, such as corruption and injustice of secular governments as well as "fear of Western domination" and "the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social and political reforms in many Muslim-majority nations."