Rand Calls for Changes in U.S. Antiterror Effortshttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903999904576470000322343240.html
WASHINGTON—The U.S. effort against international terror has run off the rails a couple of times in the past decade, and it needs serious redirecting now, according to the influential RAND Corp.
Missteps include overconfidence in rebuilding Afghanistan, launching a war in Iraq that did little to weaken al Qaeda, and actions that helped militant groups recruit more followers, like the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, say authors of a RAND book released Tuesday.
"The Long Shadow of 9/11: America's Response to Terrorism," a compilation of essays, is being released as the Senate meets to confirm a new nominee for director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a post created in response to the report of a commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. and the U.S. reaction. The center was envisioned as a way to share and streamline intelligence-gathering among the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to head off another terror attack. The nominee is a career Justice Department lawyer, Matthew Olsen, currently the general counsel for the clandestine eavesdropping service, the National Security Agency.
The problem now is almost the opposite of what allowed 9/11 to happen, according to Mr. Olsen's predecessor, Mike Leiter, who chose to leave after serving two administrations over almost five years at the round-the-clock post. Mr. Leiter says there is so much data indicating so many threats that it is difficult to figure out which poses the most clear and present danger.
The RAND essays say intelligence sharing has helped uncover terror plots but missteps have cost money and lives. RAND senior political scientist Arturo Munoz argues that the U.S. should have backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's outreach to the Taliban in December 2001. "A peace process among the Afghans was being discussed at the time, only to be repudiated by the Americans," Mr. Munoz wrote. He suggests withdrawing many of the troops, and working within Afghan culture instead of imposing a U.S.-style democracy.
Several authors argue that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistaken overreach of American power that spent U.S. resources that could have been focused better on al Qaeda.
Eric Larson, a senior policy researcher, says the U.S. isn't taking advantage of al Qaeda's overreach, in that the terror group's use of brutal tactics is backfiring, hobbling its attempt to win over Muslims to its more militant view of Islam.
The authors also warn not to exaggerate al Qaeda's strength. Essayist Brian Michael Jenkins argues the CIA has overblown the nuclear threat from al Qaeda, for instance.