U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bush's own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States.
Foreign-born jihadists are present in Iraq, but they're believed to number only between 4 percent and 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgent fighters - 1,200 to 3,000 terrorists - according to the Defense Intelligence Agency and a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center.
"Attacks by terrorist groups account for only a fraction of insurgent violence," said a February DIA report.
While acknowledging that terrorists could commit a catastrophic act on U.S. soil at any time - whether U.S. forces are in Iraq or not - the likelihood that enemy combatants from Iraq might follow departing U.S. forces back to the United States is remote at best, experts say.
The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.
The staff report said that bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq" while in Sudan through 1996, but that "Iraq apparently never responded" to a bin Laden request for help in 1994. The commission cited reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1996, adding, "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
There were AQ agents in N. Iraq -- in the Kurdish part that Americans denied Saddam control over.
this idea of 'al qaeda' did not exist as such between 9/11
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