While the NIE said some elements of the Iraqi conflict can be described as a "civil war," Hadley said it warned of catastrophic consequences if the United States withdraws. "Civil war does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq," he said.
He said giving al-Qaida a safe haven in Iraq would "result in risk and threats to the United States."
Hadley told White House reporters the NIE contained no new intelligence, but it was "a consolidated set of judgments about the situation in Iraq" from the intelligence community.
"If coalition forces were withdrawn, if such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi security forces would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution," he said, quoting from the report. "Neighboring countries, invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally, might intervene openly in the conflict.
"That's why the president concluded that while the current strategy was not working and it was a prescription for slow failure," Hadley added.