Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony
GEN Abizaid--15 November, 2006
Chairman Warner, Senator Levin, Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I refer the committee to my 3 August opening statement where I outlined the broader strategic dangers to United States interests in the Middle East.
Indeed the dangers outlined in that statement; al Qaida's extremist ideology, hegemonistic revolutionary Iranian ambitions, and the corrosive effect of continued Palestinian Israeli confrontation represent major dangers to international peace and security for several decades to come. American, regional, and international diplomatic and security policies must be articulated and coordinated to confront these problems. Despite our current focus on the struggle underway to stabilize Iraq, the interests of the international community still require the confrontation and defeat of al Qaida's dark ideology, the containment of Iranian expansionism, and progress toward Arab Israeli peace. In the current atmosphere in the region, with the use of powerful non-state militias, the development of weapons of mass destruction, and the acceptance by some of terror as a legitimate tool of normal discourse, American leadership in diplomatic, economic, and security elements of power is essential to protect the international order. How we confront these problems and empower forces of moderation in the region to resist them will define our future.
Today, over 200,000 men and women of the Armed Forces are deployed in the Central Command Area of Operations. They protect the flow of global commerce; they confront terrorists; they work hard to stabilize young, unsteady, yet elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan; and they indirectly support stability by increasing regional security capacities of our partners and friends in the region. Well over 1.5 million Americans have served in the region since September 11th, 2001. Many have given their lives, and even more have suffered life-changing injuries. Whatever course our nation chooses in the years ahead, we must be ever mindful of the sacrifice and courage of our troops and the debt we owe our veterans and their families. We must also remember that hundreds of thousands of Coalition and partner forces fight directly or indirectly with us in the broader region.
Today the committee will no doubt focus on the way ahead in Iraq and rightfully so. Yet we must be mindful of increasing threats from Iran as evidenced by its recent military exercise, which was designed to intimidate the smaller nations in the region. We must also be mindful of the real and pervasive global threat presented by al Qaida and its associated movements. Failure to stabilize Iraq could increase Iranian aggressiveness and embolden al Qaida's ideology. It could also deepen broader Sunni-Shia fissures throughout the region. The changing security challenges in Iraq require changes to our own approach to achieve stability. Let me remind the committee, however, that while new options are explored and debated, my testimony should not be taken to imply approval of shifts in direction. It is my desire today to provide an update on current security conditions in Iraq and elsewhere and current thinking about the way ahead on the security lines of operation. I remain optimistic that we can stabilize Iraq.
I just departed Iraq, where I visited with GEN Casey and his senior commanders. On the Iraqi side I had meetings with the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and the Interior Minister. Over the past 4 weeks levels of sectarian violence are down in Baghdad from their Ramadan peak. The Iraqi Armed Forces, while under sectarian pressure, continues to perform effectively across Iraq. Our focus against Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to take a toll on Iraqi AQI members and foreign fighters. Operations against selected targets on the Shia death squad side also have had good effect, and our understanding of these complex organizations continues to improve. Sunni insurgent attacks against ISF and MNF remain at high levels, and our forces continue to experience attacks from armed Shia groups, especially in the Baghdad region. In the north significant progress is being made in transitioning security responsibilities to capable Iraqi forces. Currently around 80% of the sectarian violence in Iraq happens within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad. Nonetheless, security transitions continue in most of the country.
Iraqis and Americans alike believe that Iraq can stabilize and that the key to stabilization is effective, loyal, non-sectarian Iraqi security forces coupled with an effective Government of National Unity.
In discussions with our commanders and Iraqi leaders it is clear that they believe Iraqi forces can take more control faster, provided we invest more manpower and resources into the coalition military transition teams, speed the delivery of logistics and mobility enablers, and embrace an aggressive Iraqi-led effort to disarm illegal militias. This is particularly important with regard to the Jaysh al Mahdi elements operating as armed death squads in Baghdad and elsewhere. As we increase our efforts to build Iraqi capacity, we envision coalition forces providing needed military support and combat power to Iraqi units in the lead. Precisely how we do this continues to be worked out with the Iraqis as ultimately capable independent Iraqi forces, loyal to an equally capable independent Iraqi government, will set the conditions for the withdrawal of our major combat forces.
Our commanders and diplomats believe it is possible to achieve an endstate in Iraq that finds Iraq at peace with its neighbors, an ally in the war against extremists, respectful of the lives and rights of its citizens, and with security forces sufficient to maintain order, prevent terrorist safe havens and defend the independence of Iraq. At this stage in the campaign, we'll need flexibility to manage our force and to help manage the Iraqi force. Force caps and specific timetables limit flexibility. We must also remember that our enemies have a vote in this fight. The enemy watches not only what we do on the ground but what we say and do here at home. Also, Prime Minister Maliki and his team want to do more; we want them to do more. Increased Iraqi military activity under greater Iraqi national control will only work however if his government embraces meaningful national reconciliation. His duly elected, legitimate government deserves our support and his Armed Forces, backed by ours, deserve his full support.
While I know the committee has a wide range of interests, including developments in Central Asia, Afghanistan Pakistan, Lebanon and the Horn of Africa, I will defer comment on those subjects in order to take your questions. In closing, thank you for your support of our great Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the field. Their still-unfinished work keeps us safe at home.
Ambassador David Satterfield
Senior Advisor on Iraq to the Secretary of State
Remarks Before the Senate Armed Services Committee
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to testify before your committee today.
The situation in Iraq is very serious. The Iraqi people, as well as Iraqi and Coalition forces, have suffered through several months of extreme, brutal bloodshed. The insurgency and al-Qaeda terror are responsible for the majority of U.S. military casualties and remain lethal challenges to Iraqis. It is increasingly clear that Al Qaeda's strategy to undermine the Iraqi government by sowing sectarian conflict has created a dangerous cycle of violence.
Some Iraqis have turned to armed militias and other extra-governmental groups to provide security, while others have seized upon this security vacuum to pursue local political power or narrow sectarian interests. Sustained sectarian violence and the associated rise in armed militias and other extra-governmental groups are now the greatest strategic threat to a stable, unified, and prosperous Iraq.
Sectarian differences in Iraq are like tectonic plates. Historically, they have been stable. However, if pushed too hard they can lead to tremors and, ultimately, to a devastating earthquake. While average Iraqis want nothing more than sanctuary from violence and a normal life, if they believe that the only source of security is their local sectarian militia, sectarian plates will shift, Iraqi national identity will erode, and hope for a united Iraq will crumble.
Such an outcome in Iraq is unacceptable. It would undermine U.S. national interests in Iraq and in the broader region. And it would lead to a humanitarian disaster for the Iraqi people.
The goals of the United States in Iraq remain clear. We support a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in the war against extremists. While we have not changed our goals, we are constantly reviewing, adapting and adjusting our tactics to achieve them.
At the Department of State, we have adapted over the last year by significantly increasing staffing levels at our Provincial Reconstruction Team sites located throughout Iraq. Fifty-five State employees are currently on the ground working from US- and Coalition-led PRTs (up from 21 State employees at PRT locations in February 2006) providing support to local Iraqi officials and communities to improve governance on the grassroots level. Many of our PRT staff are operating at great physical risk, particularly at PRTs located in Anbar province and in Basrah. State has also changed its Foreign Service assignments policy. Filling positions quickly and with the most qualified officers in critical threat, unaccompanied posts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, is now the Department's number one human resources priority. Fill rates for US Mission Iraq for Summer 2007 are farther along now just three weeks into the assignments cycle than they were in February for Summer 2006. As of last Friday, we had 101 out of 194 available positions mission-wide, committed that is 52%.
Three Pillars/Three Tracks
Iraq's future is dependent upon the performance and commitment of three pillars of actors: first and foremost is the Iraqi government and people. Second, is the United States and the Coalition; and third, the international community, in particular, Iraq's neighbors. All these pillars need to act together to help make progress in Iraq possible.
Progress must occur along three key tracks political, security, and economic for a stable, united, peaceful Iraq to emerge. As the President, Amb. Khalilzad, and General Casey have all stated, it is critical that we, the United States, work with the Government of Iraq to set out measurable, achievable benchmarks on each of these tracks. In short, the Iraqis need to set and then achieve clearly defined goals.
On the security track, our current focus is on transitioning more control and responsibility to the Iraqis. Prime Minister Maliki wants this, and so do we. While I will leave the details to General Abizaid, we are in the process of transitioning more command and control to Iraqi commanders, divisions, and battalions. We have already moved Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces to "Provincial Iraqi Control" and expect to move the rest of Iraq's provinces to that status over the next 16-18 months.
We are working closely with Iraqi leaders to produce a set of security benchmarks to ensure that the transition is as smooth and seamless as possible. We are also working with the Iraqi Government on renewal of the UN mandate for Coalition forces in Iraq for another year. In its letter sent yesterday to the Security Council, the Iraqi government explicitly reaffirmed both its desire for such a renewal and the transitional nature of the extension. The Iraqis want more control and we want to give it to them. We hope the UN will approve the resolution.
On the political track, we are pleased that the Iraqi Presidency Council agreed in October to a set of political benchmarks. The Iraqi Government has already made some progress. It passed a regions formation law, an investment law, and last week said it would introduce legislation that would reinstate thousands of former Ba'th officials as part of the de-Ba'thification process. These are hopeful signs that Iraq's leaders can find middle ground.
However, much more work remains. Prime Minister Maliki has appropriately focused his attention on pursuing national reconciliation. There are several requirements for reconciliation to be possible and the Iraqi Government must pursue all simultaneously.
First, the Iraqi Security Forces with Coalition support must help achieve security conditions under which Iraqis will be more comfortable making the difficult choices needed to pursue political reconciliation.
Second, the Iraqi government must reach out and engage all those willing to abandon violence and terror, including former members of the Baath Party, while credibly threatening to combat those insurgents and terrorists who remain wholly opposed to a democratic Iraq.
Third, they must establish a robust process aimed at disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating members of armed groups into normal Iraqi society. To be successful, the DDR process will require agreement on an amnesty plan that gives militants incentives to return to civilian life.
Fourth, the Iraqis must pursue and complete a national hydrocarbon law both to ensure that the country remains united as well as to spur much-needed international investment that will come only when Iraq's laws are firmly established and clear to all.
Economic - International Compact
On the economic track, the Government of Iraq is moving forward aggressively. Iraq and the United Nations announced on July 27th that they would jointly lead efforts to launch a new International Compact with Iraq. The Compact will provide a new framework for mutual commitments between Iraq and the international community, particularly those in Iraq's neighborhood, in bolstering Iraq's economic recovery.
The goal of the Compact is for the Iraqi government to demonstrate to the international community its commitment to implementing needed social, political, and economic reforms. Iraq will commit to reforming its main economic sectors -- oil, electricity and agriculture -- and to establishing the laws and building the institutions needed to combat corruption, assure good governance and protect human rights. In return, the members of the international community will provide the assistance needed to support Iraqi efforts to achieve economic and financial self-sufficiency over the next five years.
In short, with the Compact, Iraq is reaching out to the international community for help. I am pleased to report that the world is beginning to reach back, though more commitment is needed, especially from Iraq's neighbors.
The Compact is nearly complete. On October 31, Kuwait hosted a preparatory group meeting where members moved closer to a final Compact text. They intend to complete the Compact before the end of the year. Between now and then, the Iraqis will be asking their friends and neighbors to consider their goals and reforms, and to come forward with concrete pledges of assistance. We are urging Iraq's neighbors, in particular, to step forward and support Iraq's future.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we will continue to support the Government of Iraq as it moves forward on these three tracks. However, I want to make one point very clear. Each of these tracks security, political, and economic is inextricably linked to the other. While all must move forward together, a failure or setback in any one area hinders progress in the others. Thus, militias cannot be effectively demobilized in the absence of a larger political reconciliation agreement. Political reconciliation cannot survive if the government cannot agree on the distribution of oil revenue and create jobs. And Iraqis cannot modernize their economy and draw foreign investment if there is sectarian violence in the streets.
We believe that a successful path forward can still be forged in Iraq. As the transition continues to full Iraqi government control, we must stand firmly behind the Iraqis. They have a lot of work to do in the coming months to resolve their differences and reach compromises on issues that will determine their country's future. The fate and interests of our two countries are, for better or for worse, now intertwined.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I look forward to your questions.
The Current Situation in Iraq
Lieutenant General Michael D. Maples, U.S. Army
Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
Statement for the Record
Senate Armed Services Committee
15 November 2006
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, Senator Levin, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. The testimony I am about to present represents what we know and judge to be the state of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the product of the dedicated men and women of the Defense Intelligence Agency. These outstanding military and civilian intelligence professionals provide our war fighters, defense planners, and national security policy makers with information and knowledge essential to our efforts around the world, but especially to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them are executing their missions in remote and dangerous areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. I thank them for their service and the exceptional work they are doing for our nation. I would also like to thank you for your continued support of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
We have seen some recent developments that give hope for progress. These include the verdict against Saddam Hussein, efforts to address problems associated with de-Ba'athification, increased cooperation between Sunni Arab tribes and the government in al Anbar Province, arrest warrants for Ministry of Interior personnel accused of abuses, and the expulsion of radicals from Muqtada al-Sadr's movement.
We note the continued development and increased capability of the Iraqi Security Forces and police. The ISF will meet manning, training, and equipment milestones, improving unit capabilities. Nevertheless, the ISF will remain dependent on Coalition support. It will also be essential that ISF leaders reject militia influence and instill discipline in their formations to gain legitimacy with the population.
The economy has seen moderate growth despite the security situation, with continued improvement in basic services, economic reforms and institution-building.
The conflict is unquestionably complex and difficult. The fight to define post-Saddam Iraq has been primarily an intra-Arab struggle to determine how power and authority will be distributed. Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists, former military, angry Sunni, Jihadists, foreign fighters, and al Qaida provide an overlapping, complex and multi-polar Sunni insurgent and terrorist environment. Shia militias and Shia militants, some Kurdish Peshmerga, and extensive criminal activity further contribute to violence, instability, and insecurity.
The U.S. presence obscured the true nature of this fight between and among competing groups for power as observers focused on insurgent attacks and rhetoric directed at the United States. Today, DIA assesses the conditions for the further deterioration of security and instability exists within this ongoing, violent struggle for power. Although a significant breakdown of central authority has not occurred, Iraq has moved closer to this possibility primarily because of weak governance, increasing security challenges, and no agreement on a national compact.
The conflict has changed in character, scope, and dynamics and is increasingly a sectarian struggle for power and the right to define Iraq's future identity. Overall attacks averaged approximately 180 per day in October 2006, up from approximately 170 the previous month, and 70 in January 2006. Daily average of attacks against Iraqi Security Forces in October more than doubled the number reported in January, approximately 30 compared to 13. Daily average of attacks on civilians in October was four times higher than reported in January, approximately 40 compared to 10. The perception of unchecked violence is creating an atmosphere of fear and hardening sectarianism which is empowering militias and vigilante groups, hastening middle-class exodus, and shaking confidence in government and security forces. Sectarian violence, a weak central government, problems in basic services, and high unemployment are causing more Iraqis to turn to sectarian groups, militias, and insurgents for basic needs, imperiling Iraqi unity.
Despite ongoing Iraqi government and Coalition operations against terrorists, Sunni Arab insurgent groups, and Shia militias, violence in Iraq continues to increase in scope, complexity, and lethality. The Sunni Arab-based insurgency has gained strength and capacity despite political progress and security force developments. Nationwide, insurgents still conduct most attacks against the Coalition and ISF and retain the resources, capabilities, and support to sustain high levels of violence.
Attacks by terrorist groups account for only a fraction of insurgent violence throughout Iraq, yet the high-profile nature of these operations and the tactics they use have a disproportionate impact on the population and on perceptions of stability. Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), formerly led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and currently headed by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is the largest and most active of the Iraqi-based terrorist groups. AQI's targeting strategies have not changed significantly in the wake of al-Zarqawi's death on 7 June, and attacks against Iraqi government targets and Coalition forces continue apace. In addition, AQI is one of the most visible perpetrators of anti-Shia attacks in Iraq--a hallmark of its strategy since 2003--and has capitalized on the current cycle of sectarian violence by increasing perceptions that its operations are defending Sunni interests. AQI also poses a threat outside Iraq, as it is the only terrorist group in the country with known aspirations for external attacks, including possibly against targets in Europe and the U.S. homeland. Because of his involvement with al-Qaida-linked terrorists since the early 1980s, Abu Ayyub may have increased ties to al-Qaida senior leaders; these could enhance AQI's external attack capabilities. AQI operates with relative freedom in Iraq's Sunni-dominated territories, and as long as this remains true, the group will pose a threat to Iraq's internal stability and to Western interests abroad. Ansar al-Sunna, the second-most prominent terrorist group in Iraq, also poses a threat to Iraqi stability and has longstanding ties to AQI and external al-Qaida elements.
Baghdad remains the center of the conflict as Shia and Sunni Arabs fight for territorial control and political influence. Sectarian attacks constitute most of the violence in the mixed- ethnicity areas in and around the capital, while the Coalition remains the primary target in the Shia south and Sunni west.
Recent Coalition and ISF operations in Baghdad have achieved limited success. In August, levels of violence temporarily decreased, primarily in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. However, as armed groups adapted to the Coalition presence, and the ISF was unable to exert authority once Coalition forces moved on, attacks returned to and even surpassed preoperational levels. Among a range of factors, the government's reluctance to conduct operations in Shia militia strongholds also decreased the effectiveness and potential for success of the Baghdad efforts.
The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Maliki is making progress but is likely to remain fragile owing to very difficult challenges, lack of experience and capacity, mistrust, and constitutional constraints. Iraqi government officials continue attempts to achieve national reconciliation, but attacks against civilians, a key driver of ethno-sectarian conflict, continue to increase. Political leaders' inability to resolve key issues such as federalism, de-Baathfication, amnesty for insurgents, and militia integration also contribute to continued Sunni Arab discontent, fueling support for terrorist and insurgent groups. Sectarian difference limit the effectiveness of government as groups maintain a hardline stance on contentious issues.
Shia militias are a growing impediment to stability. The Ministry of Interior and the police are heavily infiltrated by members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI's Badr Corps and Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi. The Jaysh al-Mahdi often operates under the protection or approval of Iraqi police to detain, torture, and kill suspected Sunni insurgents and innocent Sunni civilians. Sadr continues to refuse any discussion of disbanding his militia. Some clandestine Jaysh al-Mahdi cells likely operate outside Sadr's direct guidance and conduct operations against the Coalition.
The Iraqi economy has experienced moderate growth despite the security situation, which continues to impede and increase overall costs of reconstruction. However, the inability to realize significant improvements in the oil and fuels sector and in electricity production and distribution creates drag on the economy while undermining the average Iraqi citizens' support for the central government and the Coalition.
DIA judges the continued Coalition presence as the primary counter to a break down in central authority, which would have grave consequences for the people of Iraq, stability in the region, and U.S. strategic interests. No major political figure in Iraq has endorsed the notion of civil war or partition, and most political and religious leaders continue to restrain their communities. Moreover, DIA judges that Iraqi Arabs retain a strong sense of national identity and that most Iraqis recall a past in which sectarian identity did not have the significance it does today. Although leaders across the political spectrum who are participating in the government continue to talk and search for a positive way forward, the challenges to bringing stability and security with a cohesive, unified, and effective government remain significant.
In Afghanistan the Taliban-led insurgency, aided by al-Qaida, is incapable of directly threatening the central government and expanding its resilient support networks and areas of influence beyond strongholds in the Pashtun south and east as long as international force levels are sustained at current levels. Nonetheless, DIA judges that, despite having absorbed heavy combat losses in 2006, the insurgency has strengthened its capabilities and influence with its core base of Pashtun communities. Violence this year is likely to be twice as high as the violence level seen in 2005. Insurgents have significantly increased their use of suicide operations. If a sustained international military and Afghan security presence throughout the volatile Pashtun south and east is not established alongside credible civil administrations, central government control over these areas will be substantially restricted. In 2007, insurgents are likely to sustain their use of more visible, aggressive, and lethal tactics in their continued effort to undermine the willingness of the international community to support military and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan and to highlight the weakness of the central government.
Al-Qaida remains committed to reestablishing a fundamentalist Islamic government in Afghanistan and has become increasingly successful in defining Afghanistan as a critical battleground against the West and its regional allies. In 2006, although the Taliban continues to drive the insurgency, al-Qaida once again appears to be attempting to reinvigorate its operations in the country from safe-havens in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. These efforts are characterized by an evolution in al-Qaida's increasingly cooperative relationship with insurgent networks. Without a fundamental, comprehensive change in the permissiveness of the border region, al-Qaida will remain a dangerous threat to security in Afghanistan and to U.S. interests around the globe.
Since 2001, the Afghan government has successfully established national-level political institutions by drafting a new constitution, holding a legitimate presidential election, and creating a democratically elected National Assembly. However, local government institutions receive limited resources from Kabul and struggle to provide effective governance. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are also struggling to promote security, particularly in the volatile south and east. They remain hindered by a shortage of skilled personnel, tribal and ethnic rivalries, and corruption. Nearly five years after the Taliban's fall, many Afghans expected the situation to be better by now and are beginning to blame President Karzai. These unrealized expectations are likely contributing to an erosion of support for his administration. Nevertheless, President Karzai remains the most powerful political figure in Afghanistan and retains the widest body of support. He will need concrete successes in the months ahead to convince Afghans his administration still has momentum and to provide an effective counter to Taliban advances.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Levin, members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to discuss with you our assessment of the current security situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our nation is engaged in a long war against terrorism and violent extremism. Providing support to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines engaged in insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism is our first priority. And thank you for your continuing support for the men and women of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The Current Situation in Iraq
General Michael V. Hayden
Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Statement for the Record
Senate Armed Services Committee
15 November 2006
D/CIA Testimony Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee:
The overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and of Saddam Husayn in Iraq as well as our determined pursuit of al-Qa'ida worldwide have inaugurated a new era of risk and opportunity for the United States in its engagement with much of the Muslim world. We are now face-to-face with whole societies which are in profound and volatile transitions and whose fate will directly affect the security of the United States. With US forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the United States leading the global response to the threat of terrorism, we are now actors to an unprecedented degree in supporting states--especially Iraq and Afghanistan--which are attempting to create and sustain a stable new order.
With these trends in mind, let me begin by focusing on Afghanistan where we have made important progress in the face of substantial challenges. Afghanistan's future depends heavily on the international community's willingness to continue delivering concrete resources to the Afghan Government. It depends equally on international willingness to help protect the Afghan Government against the Taliban and other extremists who are waging a bloody insurgency in the south and east of the country.
Neither of these tasks will be simple, and neither will be completed soon, but the past few years have been a story of success for the Afghan Government and people, as well as the international community. The country made remarkable political progress through the completion of the 2001 Bonn Accord--the political roadmap for rebuilding the country. The international community and the Afghan Government, under the leadership of President Karzai, have built national-level political institutions--including a new constitution, legitimate presidential elections, and a democratically elected parliament.
The success of the past few years hasn't lessened the need for international involvement in the country--it has only provided a foundation upon which to build. Now, we need to bolster the Afghan Government's ability to provide sound governance at all levels of government. Ambassador Neuman recently said the effort would take a long time--in my view, at least a decade-- and cost many billions of dollars. I would add that the Afghan Government won't be able to do it alone.
The capacity of the government needs to be strengthened to deliver basic services to the population--especially security. The problems span Afghanistan, but they are especially prevalent in rural areas. The quality of life for millions of Afghans--spread across desolate land and isolated villages--has not advanced and in many areas the Afghan Government is nowhere to be found.
The illicit drug trade is a significant hurdle to the expansion of central government authority and it undercuts efforts to rebuild the economy. The drug trade also fuels provincial and local corruption. According to the IMF, the Afghan opiate GDP in 2005 was $2.6 billion--roughly a third of the country's $7.3 billion licit GDP.
Key to making progress is bolstering security. Even in areas of the country where the insurgency is not active, security is falling short.
The Taliban has built momentum this year. The level of violence associated with the insurgency has increased significantly and the group has become more aggressive than in years past. The Taliban almost certainly refocused its attacks in an attempt to stymie NATO's efforts in southern Afghanistan.
Iraq provides another example of how the forces of change are reshaping the Muslim world. The deep fissures among the groups fighting in Iraq were not created by the Coalition's overthrow of Saddam's dictatorship. Throughout Iraq's modern history, a Sunni minority ruled with the support of the military; Saddam's cult of personality tragically reinforced this pattern by using extreme violence to suppress the vast majority of Iraq's inhabitants. Saddam killed tens of thousands of Kurds and Shia in the short period from 1988, when he launched the Anfal campaign against the Kurds, to 1991, when he brutally suppressed Shia and Kurdish revolts:
Operation Iraqi Freedom completely upended the Saddamist state and Iraqi society. In every respect--political, social, economic--OIF instituted a sea change in the way Iraq is governed. The dissolution of the Iraqi military and the Ba'th party swept away the tools that a small group in power had used to terrorize Iraq, and the subsequent vacuum of authority gave vent to deep seated hatreds that had simmered for years in a brutalized society:
We are all acutely aware that Iraq today is very far from peaceful. While some Sunnis participate in the political process, many seek to undermine it through violence. These Sunni insurgents might disagree on Iraq's future, but all reject the Coalition presence and the constitutional regime they erroneously assert the Coalition has imposed on Iraq. Moreover, since the bombing of the al- Askari Mosque in Samarra last February, violence between Arab Shia and Sunnis has grown to such an extent that we assess that sectarian violence is now the greatest threat to Iraq's stability and future.
Any Iraqi leader, no matter how skillful, would be hard pressed to reconcile the divergent perspectives that Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds bring to the table--and also to the streets. To strengthen the common ground that all Iraqis can share, the government of Prime Minister Maliki will have to overcome several formidable obstacles:
Even if the central government gains broader support from Iraq's communities, implementing the reforms needed to improve life for all Iraqis will be extremely difficult. Iraq's endemic violence is eating away at the state's ability to govern. The security forces are plagued by sectarianism and severe maintenance and logistics problems; inadequate ministerial capacity is limiting progress on key issues; and the civilian bureaucracy, buffeted by corruption, inefficiency and partisan control, is not currently up to the challenge of providing better services to the Iraqi people. Only if the Iraqi state asserts its authority across the board can the government in Baghdad begin to turn its goals into concrete realities.
Complicating these historic forces is the pernicious effect of al-Qa'ida's presence in Iraq. Despite Zarqawi's death, al-Qa'ida continues to foment sectarian violence and seeks to expel coalition forces. An al-Qa'ida victory in Iraq would mean a fundamentalist state that shelters jihadists and serves as a launching pad for terrorist operations throughout the region--and in the United States.
Turning next to al-Qa'ida...
Al-Qa'ida sees its war against the West as the continuation of a decades, perhaps centuries-old, struggle to defend Islam from political and cultural domination by a Judeo-Christian alliance now led by the United States and Israel. Since Bin Ladin declared war on the United States in 1998, al-Qa'ida has focused primarily on attacks aimed at weakening and punishing the United States and its immediate allies.
Understanding the source of al-Qa'ida's resilience is key to defeating it. With regard to the central organization headed by Bin Ladin, that resilience stems from several factors:
First, the group's cadre of seasoned, committed leaders has allowed it to remain fairly cohesive and stay focused on its strategic objectives--despite having lost a number of important veterans over the years.
A second critical factor is the group's physical safehaven in the Afghanistan- Pakistan border area. This safehaven gives al-Qa'ida the physical--and psychological--space needed to meet, train, expand its networks, and prepare new attacks.
A third important factor is Bin Ladin's extremist ideology and strategic vision, which continues to attract recruits, inspire like-minded groups, and helps our enemies weather setbacks and reconcile themselves to a long struggle.
Finally, it's important to note that the asymmetric nature of al-Qa'ida's style of warfare gives it certain advantages.
Mr. Chairman, in all aspects of today's global struggle, we are dealing with deep historical forces and it will require patience and wisdom as well as power for us to deal with them. This will be a long struggle.
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