Friday, February 2

The NIE Report: 12-18 Months is Not Enough

Even though it is hard to align my thinking with the "Intelligence community"--given the crackerjack job they did identifying, with "certainty", weapons of mass distruction in Iraq, the report is nonetheless not exactly backing the President's contentions...

Iraq is unraveling at an accelerating rate, and even if U.S. and Iraqi forces can slow the spreading violence, the country's fragile government is unlikely to deliver significant stability to its people over the next year, according to a much-anticipated assessment released today by America's intelligence agencies.

The grim report, titled "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead," catalogs an array of forces pulling the country apart. The document concludes that to call the situation a civil war "does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict" because the causes of violence are so varied.

The assessment says there are scenarios that could lead to political progress and slow recovery, but also identifies "triggering events" that could push the foundering country into complete chaos, with neighboring nations choosing sides in what could become a regional conflagration.

In a blunt bottom-line assessment, the document says that "given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard- pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this estimate."

In one section, the report — known as a National Intelligence Estimate — warns that the presence of U.S. troops remains "an essential stabilizing element in Iraq," and that if there were a rapid withdrawal, the Iraqi security forces "would be unlikely to survive."

At the same time, the document concludes that "even if violence is diminished," the prospects for "sustained political reconciliation" are dim for at least the next 12 to 18 months — well beyond the period in which the White House has said additional troops would be provided.

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