The myth of an al Qaeda takeover of Iraq

Cato Institute
by Ted Galen Carpenter

01/31/07

In his State of the Union Address last Tuesday, President Bush warned that if the U.S. fails in Iraq, al Qaeda will gain a safe haven from which to launch attacks against America. It is an argument that the President, other members of the administration, and neoconservative hawks have been using for years. ... Despite such scare mongering, it is highly improbable that al Qaeda could use Iraq as the kind of safe haven it enjoyed in Afghanistan. There, the organization had the protection of an entrenched, friendly government, which it will not have in Iraq. Al Qaeda also had a much larger force in Afghanistan -- an estimated 18,000 fighters. Even the U.S. government concedes that there are fewer than 2,000 al Qaeda fighters in Iraq, and the Iraq Study Group put the figure at only 1,300. Indeed, foreign fighters make up a relatively small component of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. and British occupation forces. It strains credulity to imagine 1,300 fighters (and foreigners at that) dominating a country of 26 million people...

//www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=7353


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