The mostly Muslim extremist terrorist groups in which the Middle East and Gulf regions abound are going territorial.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terrorism experts discern a new strategic bent among these groups that could tie up tens of thousands of US troops in these regions long after the Iraq War is over and won. In particular, al Qaeda, the Palestinian organizations and the Lebanese Hizballah are planning to carve out some seven enclaves in the volatile Middle East, the Gulf and along the Red Sea shores. They have their eye on lawless, controversial, unruly or desolate patches of land, where they can set up strongholds as fiefdoms for iron-fisted terrorist chieftains, launching pads for violent sallies around the region and the dissemination of their suicide culture.
This is bad news for the region and a contretemps for the United States. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources say Pentagon planners had planned on the US command directing the global war against terrorism making do with about 70,000 US troops in post-war Iraq over the next seven years. But terrorist enclaves mushrooming on the regional map would force Washington to budget for a similarly sized ground force to protect US facilities and those of its local allies in the region. Throw in air and naval forces, and the figure goes up to a quarter-million strong US expeditionary force tied down in the first three years after the Iraqi War ends, a deployment that would entail the massive relocation of the bulk of US military headquarters and troops from European bases to the Middle East.
The seven terrorist enclaves taking form are situated roughly in these areas:
Southern and central Lebanon
The Gaza Strip and northern Sinai
The border badlands between Yemen and Saudi Arabia
The string of Yemen and Saudi islands down the eastern Red Sea coast
The Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali) of southern Arabia
DEBKA-Net-Weekly offers an exclusive guide to the labyrinth of terrorist groups already operating from these rough-hewn enclaves and its implications for Washington’s planning – both for the offensive against Iraq and for post-war political and military developments.