LONDON - War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al
Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the
International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday
in its annual report.
The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's
annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said
Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had
turned the corner in the war on terror were "over-confident."
The report, widely considered an authoritative text on the
military capabilities of states and militant groups worldwide,
could prove fodder for critics of the U.S.-British invasion and
of the reconstruction effort that has followed in Iraq.
U.S. Army troops secure the area after a suicide car bomb attack in Baghdad October 14, 2003. War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report. The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had turned the corner in the war on terror were 'over-confident.' (Chris Helgren/Reuters)
Washington must impose security in Iraq to prevent the
country from "ripening into a cause celebre for radical Islamic
terrorists," it concluded. "Nation-building" in Iraq was
paramount and might require more troops than initially planned.
"On the plus side, war in Iraq has denied al Qaeda a
potential supplier of weapons of mass destruction and
discouraged state sponsors of terrorism from continuing to
support it," the report said.
"On the minus side, war in Iraq has probably inflamed
radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al Qaeda's
recruiting power and morale and, at least marginally, its
operating capability," it said.
"The immediate effect of the war may have been to isolate
further al Qaeda from any potential state supporters while also
swelling its ranks and galvanizing its will."
Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism expert at Britain's St Andrew's
University, told Reuters the report's findings would drive home
the importance of rebuilding Iraq and other conflict zones.
"Military planners and the law enforcement community are
fully aware of the consequences of failed states," he said.
"I think it's probably worthwhile for politicians to keep
in mind our responsibility to provide sustained and long term
reconstruction in war-torn countries, so they don't fly back
into anarchy or become incubators of terrorism."
Washington blames al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, for the
2001 U.S. airliner hijack attacks which killed 3,044 people.
A crackdown had netted some al Qaeda leaders and deprived
al Qaeda of bases in Afghanistan. But it also "impelled an
already highly decentralized and evasive international
terrorist network to become even more 'virtual' and protean
and, therefore, harder to identify and neutralize," the IISS
It said 18,000 veterans of al Qaeda's Afghan training camps
were still probably operating worldwide "with recruitment
continuing and probably increasing following the war in Iraq."
Al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are mostly still at
large and continue to incite followers over the Internet and
through pronouncements on Arabic-language television.
Because of its extreme religious world view, al Qaeda
"cannot be tamed or controlled through political compromise or
conflict resolution," the report said.
But Western countries need to do more to reach out to
Muslim countries and their own Islamic minorities to "eliminate
the root causes of terrorism," especially after the Iraq war
"almost certainly further alienated Islam from the West."
Efforts should be redoubled to resolve local conflicts,
such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so regional radical
groups such as Hamas do not fall into al Qaeda's embrace, it
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd