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Bush: Defeating al Qaeda in Iraq Key to Defeating al Qaeda Worldwide

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2007 – Defeating al Qaeda in Iraq is critical to defeating the larger al Qaeda terrorist network, and the United States won’t stop short of that goal, President Bush said today at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (Video)

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President George Bush waves to the crowd from Air Force One on the Charleston Air Force Base flightline today. Bush visited Charleston AFB, took a tour of a static C-17, ate lunch with Airmen from the base and talked about the Global War on Terrorism. U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Nicholas Pilch
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Bush told airmen and their families at the base that some people call Iraq a distraction from the war on terror and argue that al Qaeda in Iraq is unrelated to Osama bin Laden’s larger al Qaeda network.

“That would be news to Osama bin Laden,” the president said. “He’s proclaimed that the third world war is raging in Iraq.”

Nearly six years since al Qaeda launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Iraq has become a key theater in the global war on terror, the president said. Troops fighting there are opposing ruthless enemies, “and no enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than al Qaeda.”

As its members work to bring down Iraq’s democracy and create a terrorist safe haven, al Qaeda in Iraq’s leaders are trying to trick their Iraqi followers into thinking they’re serving fellow Iraqis, Bush said.

In fact, the Qaeda in Iraq network was founded by foreign terrorists, is led largely by foreign terrorists, and pays allegiance to a foreign terrorist, Bush said. Foreign-born terrorists carry out 80 to 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq and inflict the most suffering on the Iraqi people, he said.

“They know they’re al Qaeda. The Iraqi people know they are al Qaeda. People across the Muslim world know they are al Qaeda, and there’s a good reason they are called al Qaeda in Iraq,” Bush said. “They are al Qaeda, in Iraq.”

Bush called the merger between al Qaeda and its Iraqi affiliate “an allegiance of killers.” Its members share a common ideology, a desire to establish a terrorist safe haven in Iraq and a goal of attacking the United States, he said.

That’s why “the finest military in the world is on their trail,” the president said.

Bush quoted Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, who declared al Qaeda “public enemy No. 1 for the Iraqi people.”

The group is public enemy No. 1 for the American people, too, Bush said. “And that is why, for the security of our country, we will stay on the hunt, we’ll deny them safe haven, and we will defeat them where they have made their stand,” he said.

Bush said leaving Iraq too early would be surrendering the country’s future to al Qaeda. “Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al Qaeda in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat,” he said. “If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world and disastrous for America.”

The president vowed not to let that happen and said he’s counting on U.S. servicemembers to continue supporting that effort.

“Every man and woman who serves at this base and around the world is playing a vital role in this war on terror,” he said. “With your selfless spirit and devotion to duty, we will confront this mortal threat to our country, and we’re going to prevail. I have confidence in our country, and I have faith in our cause, because I know the character of the men and women gathered before me.”

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