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Two Years After 9-11, Defense Officials Cite Progress in War on Terror

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2003 – Two years after terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Defense leaders said America has heeded "that wake-up call to the real threat of international terrorism," and is making solid progress in the war on terrorism.

"We've had great success in the last two years," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told morning show reporters today on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We've got an Afghanistan today that is free of the al Qaeda. They no longer have a safe haven for planning, for working out their operational schemes which hatched 9-11."

Myers said the situation in Iraq also reflects steady progress. "We're winning the battle of terrorism there," he said, "and I think we're winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people."

A solid indicator of progress in "the new Iraq," he said, is the Arab League's announcement this week that it would accept the interim foreign minister for the new Iraqi Governing Council. Myers called that announcement "a huge diplomatic victory for Iraq."

Myers said another promising development is the increased role the Iraqi people are playing in maintaining the country's security.

"In the last four and a half months, we've gone from zero Iraqis to over 55,000 Iraqis participating in their own security in their police force, in the Iraqi army, infrastructure protection services and Iraqi civil defense force," he said. "In fact, they're the largest part of our coalition right now, Iraqis securing Iraq for Iraqis."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called overcoming the brutal dictatorship in Iraq "a great advance" in the war on terror. "Saddam Hussein was an advocate of terrorism, a financier of terrorism, a harborer of terrorists," he told reporters. Now, he said, Iraq has a chance to become, "not a constant destabilizing force," but rather, "a positive force for stability" in the region.

Just as Sept. 11 served as the United States' wakeup call about the seriousness of the terrorist threat, Wolfowitz said other events have awakened other parts of the world. "Sept. 11 was our wake-up call," he said. "The Indonesians made a fundamental turn after that terrible attack in Bali. The (United Nations) has changed substantially after the attack on the U.N. headquarters. The Shia of Iraq are now much more anti-al Qaeda than before the terrible bomb in the mosque in Najaf."

Each event, he said, helps build international understanding that terrorism is a global threat that must be confronted worldwide.

But even with growing international support and continued progress, Wolfowitz said, the war on terrorism will be a long, difficult battle, but one the United States cannot afford to shirk from.

"It's going to be a long one," he said, "but we will prevail. We can't make ourselves safe by building walls around our country or walls around our buildings.

"The only way we're going to make our country safe is to go on the offense; to go after the terrorists where they live, where they are supported, where they have sanctuary."

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