American Security Project Report Finds Progress In Iraq and the War on Terror "Fundamentally Disconnected"

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Worldwide Jihadist Violence Increasing Despite Iraq Troop Surge

We may be facing a special moment where our interests and values come together in justifying a reversal of the previous policy of accommodating Musharraf

The American Security Project (ASP) today released a six-month update to its groundbreaking metrics report on U.S. progress in the so-called war on terror. What it found was a metastasizing jihadist threat, a continuing increase in Islamist terrorist incidents around the world, and a largely tone-deaf U.S. policy response due largely to a preoccupation with the apparent success of the Iraq surge strategy.

Six months ago, as troop increases in Iraq were beginning to quell the bloodshed there, ASP's comprehensive examination of progress in the war on terror--Are We Winning? Measuring Progress in the Struggle Against Violent Jihadism--found that the United States was succeeding in only two of 10 metrics: a decrease in the number of state sponsors of terrorism and advancements in economic prosperity in the Muslim world. The study also found that a significant increase in worldwide terrorist incidents was the single most ominous indicator that U.S. counter-terrorism strategy was in trouble. Six months later, these trends have not improved.

While the Iraq troop surge has made important tactical improvements on the ground and has marginalized al Qaeda there, incidents of jihadist violence have continued to increase around the world, according to data from the National Counter Terrorism Center. Jihadist terrorist incidents worldwide have nearly doubled from 2005 to 2007, even after excluding attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan and those related to ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence.

"To put it another way," said study author and ASP senior fellow, Bernard I. Finel, "while violence has declined in Iraq since the start of the surge, extremist-led carnage worldwide has increased significantly during the same time-frame."

Even more disturbing, jihadist recruitment has continued its march beyond its traditional geography and core of mostly disaffected and disenfranchised young men to educated and self-motivated jihadists who are joining the movement without any direct control from al Qaeda central.

"Such cultural popularization of violent extremism should serve as a wake-up call to counter-terrorism policymakers," said Finel. "Increased jihadist activity is likely to be a natural outcome of our continued presence in Iraq and U.S. policy going forward should recognize rather than disguise that fact."

There is increasing evidence, the report points out, that progress in Iraq is fundamentally disconnected from the struggle against the broader global jihadist movement. "This is yet another indication that, despite the assertions of administration officials and the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus before Congress on September 11, 2007, Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror, but rather a costly distraction from the broader threat we face from Islamist extremism," argued Finel.

Finel does not favor immediate withdrawal from Iraq, however. Rather, he argues, what's most urgently needed is a complete reexamination of U.S. counter-terrorism policy. One such opportunity now exists in Pakistan, where the Islamist parties were soundly routed by the moderate, secular forces in an election that was widely viewed as a repudiation of Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff's pro-U.S. polices. U.S. and coalition forces will have to proceed carefully, but the opportunity to create a fundamentally different relationship with Pakistan that supports indigenous institutions rather than promotes military force is ripe.

"We may be facing a special moment where our interests and values come together in justifying a reversal of the previous policy of accommodating Musharraf," the report concluded. "It remains to be seen whether we will be able to take advantage of what is likely a fleeting opportunity."

For more information, or to download a copy of the report, visit the American Security Project's website.

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