US intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded that the Iraq war has helped inspire a new generation of Islamic radicals and increased the threat of global terrorism.
American newspapers report that the National Intelligence Estimate cites the US invasion and continued presence in Iraq as central to the creation of extremist Islamic networks and cells, united by little more than an anti-Western agenda.
Reacting to the reports, the White House says it does not comment on classified documents and that the news reports are not representative of the whole National Intelligence Estimate. Opposition Democrats say the report proves the failure of US policy in Iraq and demonstrates the need for a new direction in the war against terror.
The New York Times, which first reported on the document, says US officials and experts who have seen the report say it concludes that the growing radical Islamic movement is inspired by al-Qaida, but has no direct connection to it.
The National Intelligence Estimate is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism since the Iraq war began and represents a consensus view of 16 US intelligence agencies.
Interviewed on American television, two leading Republican Senators, Bill Frist and John McCain, said they have not seen the classified document.
Senate Majority Leader Frist told ABC that Americans understand that the war against terrorism needs to continue, and that the battle will be fought either overseas or in the United States.
McCain told CBS that the United States needs to prevail in Iraq, saying that failure in that country would only further complicate problems.
The newspaper accounts of the National Intelligence Estimate quote the document as saying that militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries to stoke domestic conflicts and foment radical ideologies.
The reports also quote the document as saying the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology and is used by terror operatives who no longer have refuges in countries such as Afghanistan.