Senate Democrats

One Year Into Bush’s “Surge,” America’s National Security Remains Under Threat

In the year since President Bush announced his surge strategy violence in Iraq has diminished, but the national security of the United States is no less threatened. In Iraq, insurgents pushed out of Anbar and Baghdad have moved into Northern Iraq, making it now the most dangerous part of the country. While the U.S. has been focused on Iraq, the global terrorist incidents have risen, violence in Afghanistan has surged to levels not seen since 2001 and Al-Qaeda has used a safe haven on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to regenerate its ability to attack the U.S. homeland. Pakistan’s political instability has hurt its ability to tackle the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in its tribal areas and could compromise the security of its nuclear arsenal.  Despite President Bush’s promises that the new strategy would “bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren,” the United States is far from safe. The President should work with Congress to redeploy our troops in Iraq and refocus our security resources on all of the threats facing our nation.

Though violence is down in Iraq, threat remains:

Sunni Insurgents Pushed Out of Baghdad and Anbar Have Moved Into Northern Iraq. “Sunni insurgents pushed out of Baghdad and Anbar Provinces have migrated to this northern Iraqi city and have been trying to turn it into a major hub for their operations, according to American commanders. A growing number of insurgents have relocated here and other places in northern Iraq as the additional forces sent by President Bush have mounted operations in the Iraqi capital and American commanders have made common cause with Sunni tribes in the western part of the country.” [New York Times, 12/5/07]

  • Northern Iraq Is Now the Most Dangerous Area of the Country. “Almost two-thirds of insurgent attacks in Iraq occur in the north of the war-ravaged country, although overall levels of violence have dropped, a US General said on Wednesday. ‘The percentage of attacks are much higher in the north than anywhere else in Iraq,’ said General James Boozer, US assistant commander in chief for northern Iraq. ‘For example, there’s an average of 50 attacks a day in the north, eight in Baghdad and two or three in Anbar. We can say that 60 percent of the attacks occur in (the north),’ he said.” [Agence France-Presse, 1/2/08]

American Support of the Awakening Has Exacerbated Tensions Among Sunnis. “Anbar is the success story of the U.S. strategy to combat the insurgency from the ground up by striking alliances with local leaders. But though the tribal sheiks’ rebellion against the militants they once backed has calmed the region and opened the door to political dialogue with Iraq’s majority Shiites, it has deepened divisions among Sunnis. As violence has faded, an argument has been raging over who really speaks for Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority: the province’s largely secular and fiercely independent tribal leaders, who resisted the U.S. invasion, or the main Sunni political party, an Islamist group led by former exiles who cooperated with the Americans from the start.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/3/08]

  • Awakening Councils Have Also Increased Sunni-Shia Tensions And Could Set the Stage for a Civil War. “Despite the successes of the movement, including the members’ ability to provide valuable intelligence and give rebuilding efforts a new chance in war-shattered communities, the American military acknowledges that it is also a high-risk proposition. It is an experiment in counterinsurgency warfare that could contain the seeds of a civil war — in which, if the worst fears come true, the United States would have helped organize some of the Sunni forces arrayed against the central government on which so many American lives and dollars have been spent. In interviews with Awakening groups in 10 locations — four interviewed during a week in Anbar, and six groups in and around Baghdad interviewed over several days — it was evident that the groups were improving security in their areas. But it is also clear that there is little loyalty, in either direction, between the Sunni groups and the Shiites who run the government.” [New York Times, 12/23/07]

While U.S. armed forces are bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda and terrorism continue to threaten America’s national security:

Global Terrorist Incidents Have Increased Dramatically Since 2001. “Between January 2001 and September 2001 there were 1,188 terrorist incidents around the world, including the three separate 9/11 events which have become infamous in the memory of Americans. Attacks within Israel alone accounted for 238 terrorist incidents, with Iraq and Afghanistan contributing four. Counting only those incidents attributed to Islamist extremist groups, there were 61 incidents globally with 40 occurring outside of Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. The comparison with the same time period in 2006 is stark. Worldwide, there were 5,188 terrorist incidents, 1,437 excluding Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Of those remaining incidents, 490 were attributed to Islamist terrorism, of which 92 were extraneous to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.” [American Security Project, “Are We Winning?,” September 2007]

U.N. Report: Afghanistan Experiencing Most Violence Since 2001. “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. ‘The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007,’ said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security. There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.” [McClatchy, 10/1/07]

  • Violence in Afghanistan Has Increased 30 Percent Since Last Year. “Reporting to the U.N. Security Council, special representative for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said while there was a dip in violence in the last two months, the number of violent incidents was still up 30 percent from last year. ‘The sad result is a significant increase in the numbers of civilian casualties — at least 1,200 have been killed since January this year,’ Koenigs said, noting the United Nations had recorded 606 roadside bombs and 133 suicide attacks, up from 88 suicide bombs by the same time last year.” [Reuters, 10/15/07]
  • Suicide Bombings in Afghanistan Have Surged Since 2001. “Suicide bombings, an Al Qaeda tactic, were never seen before 2001 in Afghanistan. Yet they jumped five-fold from 21 in 2005 to 139 in 2006, and they have increased by an additional 69 percent so far in 2007.” [Center for American Progress, “The Forgotten Front,” 11/07]

More Foreign Fighters Have Arrived This Year Than Any Time Since 2001 – Are More Violent Than Afghan Taliban. “The foreign fighters are not only bolstering the ranks of the insurgency. They are more violent, uncontrollable and extreme than even their locally bred allies, officials on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border warn…Their growing numbers point to the worsening problem of lawlessness in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use as a base to train alongside militants from Al Qaeda who have carried out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe, according to Western diplomats. ‘We’ve seen an unprecedented level of reports of foreign-fighter involvement,’ said Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, deputy commander for security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. ‘They’ll threaten people if they don’t provide meals and support.’ In interviews in southern and eastern Afghanistan, local officials and village elders also reported having seen more foreigners fighting alongside the Taliban than in any year since the American-led invasion in 2001.” [New York Times, 10/30/07]

NIE: Al-Qaeda Is Main Threat to U.S., Has Regenerated Key Elements of its Homeland Attack Capability. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership… As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” [National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07]

Al-Qaeda Gaining Strength, Has Sanctuary on Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.  “Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting.” [Washington Post, 7/11/07]

U.S. Intelligence Has Detected Signs of Al-Qaeda Surging in Afghanistan.  “American military and intelligence officials are detecting early signs that Al Qaeda may be increasing its activities in Afghanistan, perhaps even seeking to return to its former base of operations, a senior Defense Department official said Monday…The senior Defense Department official, aboard Mr. Gates’s plane, said, ‘We are seeing early indicators that there may be some stepped-up activity by Al Qaeda.’ No details were offered.” [New York Times, 12/4/07]

  • Osama Bin Laden Is Still At-Large After 2312 Days on the Run Since September 11, 2001.

 Pakistan also serves as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban operating in Afghanistan:

Taliban Operates from Safe Havens in Pakistan, Also Gets Recruits and Financial Support from Pakistan. “The Taliban has become increasingly strong in the past year with its sanctuaries in Pakistan and in the south and east of Afghanistan. It receives recruits and financial and military support through a Pakistani network. It also plans and trains for combat in Afghanistan just across the border in Pakistan.” [Center for American Progress, “The Forgotten Front,” 11/07]

Pakistan Serves as Base of Operations for Al-Qaeda Attacks in Afghanistan. “Al Qaeda’s reconstituted safe haven in Pakistan also gives it free reign to provide support to the Afghan insurgents. A U.N. report released in September found that more than 80 percent of suicide bombers planning attacks in Afghanistan are ‘trained, recruited or sheltered’ in Pakistan.” [Center for American Progress, “The Forgotten Front,” 11/07

  • Taliban and Al-Qaeda Fighters Have Increasingly Crossed Into Afghanistan from Sanctuaries in Pakistan in Recent Months. “Beyond these wooded hills and ravines are the Pakistani sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda who’ve in recent months crossed, mostly at night, in growing numbers.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/07]

 Political instability in Pakistan also threatens U.S. national security:

Homegrown Pakistani Terrorist Extremist Group Poses a Growing Worldwide Threat.  “Although the war against Islamic militancy has focused on shadowy underground organizations such as Al Qaeda, counter-terrorism officials say there is a growing worldwide threat from an extremist group operating in plain sight in Pakistan. The group, formerly known as Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Righteous, was formed in the late 1980s and, with the support of the Pakistani government, launched attacks against India in the dispute over the Kashmir region.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/18/07]

 Analysts Worry Gen. Musharraf’s Declaration of State of Emergency Will Hurt His Ability to Fight Terrorism in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Which Threaten National Security. “While Gen. Pervez Musharraf justified his emergency rule decree as helping him combat terrorism, it could end up weakening his ability to rein in the Qaeda militants who ultimately threaten American interests…At the same time, Pakistani analysts are increasingly questioning General Musharraf’s contention that emergency rule was needed to help him fight terrorism. Across the country, policemen and intelligence agents have been diverted from hunting terrorists to arresting lawyers, who apparently are being assessed as the greater threat to the general’s rule. These analysts argue that the extraordinary steps General Musharraf has taken against Pakistan’s courts and its news media will in any case have little effect in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Al Qaeda and other groups are thriving.” [New York Times, 11/6/07]

Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal Could be Compromised by Political Uncertainty. “Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pervez Musharraf,  -Search using:  Biographies Plus News News, Most Recent 60 DaysPakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials. But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.” [New York Times, 11/18/07]

And questions persist about how billions in U.S. aid to Pakistan has been spent:

U.S. Has Given Pakistan $10 Billion in Aid Since 2001. Since 2001, the U.S. has given Pakistan an estimated $10 billion in aid, with 90 percent of that money going to Pakistan’s military. The Bush Administration has asked for another $785 million in aid to Pakistan in FY 2008. [CQ Today, 11/9/07]

 Los Angeles Times Reports Pakistan Has Directed Much of U.S. Military Aid Toward Conventional Military Capacity Aimed at India, Rather than Counterterrorism Operations Against Al-Qaeda. “Despite billions of dollars in U.S. military payments to Pakistan over the last six years, the paramilitary force leading the pursuit of Al Qaeda militants remains underfunded, poorly trained and overwhelmingly outgunned, U.S. military and intelligence officials said. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cited the rising militant threat in declaring a state of emergency on Saturday and suspending the constitution. But rather than use the more than $7 billion in U.S. military aid to bolster its counter-terrorism capabilities, Pakistan has spent the bulk of it on heavy arms, aircraft and equipment that U.S. officials say are far more suited for conventional warfare with India, its regional rival.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/5/07]

  • Pakistani Counterterrorism Forces Lack of Advanced Weapons Has Contributed to Al-Qaeda’s Ability to Regroup in Tribal Areas. “That has left fighters with the paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps, equipped often with little more than "sandals and bolt-action rifles," said a senior Western military official in Islamabad, even as they face Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters equipped with assault rifles and grenade launchers. The arms imbalance has contributed to Al Qaeda’s ability to regroup in the border region, and reflects the competing priorities that were evident even before this weekend between two countries that are self-described allies in the "war on terrorism" but have sharply divergent national security interests.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/5/07]

Iraq war has contributed to declining opinion of U.S. around the world, making us less safe:

Poll of Residents in 25 Countries Found 29 Percent Believe U.S. Exerts a Mainly Positive Influence in the World, Down from 36 Percent in 2006 and 40 Percent in 2005. “George Bush, the US president, is facing mounting disapproval of his policies abroad, according to a poll carried out for the BBC World Service, published today. The poll of 26,000 people in 25 countries showed just 29 percent now feel the United States exerts a mainly positive influence on the world, compared with 36 per cent a year ago and 40 percent two years ago.” [The Scotsman (UK), 1/23/07]

  • 49 Percent of World Believes U.S. Exerts a Mainly Negative Role Internationally. “And 49 per cent now believe the US plays a mainly negative role internationally.” [The Scotsman (UK), 1/23/07]