First Published: 2007-07-18

 
Al-Qaeda appraisal triggers US war of words over Iraq
 

White House says US is safer in post 9/11 attacks, Democrats blast Bush's war on terror strategy.

 

Middle East Online

By Jitendra Joshi - WASHINGTON

Al-Qaeda resurges

A new appraisal that Al-Qaeda is back in business fueled an angry Democratic clamor for President George W. Bush to end the war in Iraq and focus on eliminating Osama bin Laden's resurgent network.

The latest US "national intelligence estimate" (NIE) released Tuesday revived acrimonious arguments over whether Bush has made the United States more or less vulnerable to terrorism.

The administration pushed its line that the United States is "safer but not yet safe" as a result of its actions since the September 11 attacks of 2001, and now is not the time to abandon a new front of the "war on terror" in Iraq.

Adamant that Al-Qaeda wants a foothold in Iraq "to spread their poisonous ideology," Bush said the group responsible for the 9/11 strikes "would have been a heck of a lot stronger today had we not stayed on the offense."

The NIE's "key judgments" on the terrorist threat to the United States concluded that Al-Qaeda is gaining strength in a lawless zone of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan.

"As a result, we judge the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment," said the report, the considered view of US spymasters and analysts.

It said Al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland (US) attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas, operational lieutenants, and its top leadership."

Nearly six years on from the 9/11 attacks, which killed roughly 3,000 people, Bush critics demanded to know why their prime architects are still on the run and redoubled calls for an early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

"After almost six years, awesome sacrifices by our brave men and women in uniform, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, we are no safer than we were on 9/11," Democratic Senator and White House contender Barack Obama said.

"This is a consequence of waging a misguided war in Iraq that should never have been authorized, and failing to seize the opportunity to do lasting harm to the extremist networks that pose a direct threat to our homeland," he said.

"It is time to act to correct those mistakes, and the first step is to get out of Iraq, because you can't win a war when you're on the wrong battlefield."

The intelligence report maintained that "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" has become "the most visible and capable affiliate" of bin Laden's network with an intent to attack the United States.

The Iraqi branch helps Al-Qaeda as a whole "to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for homeland attacks."

Former senator John Edwards, another Democrat in the 2008 presidential race, said the NIE was "proof positive" that Bush's war on terror was nothing more than a "bumper sticker" and Iraq a dangerous diversion.

"This administration has failed America -- six years after 9/11, bin Laden is still alive, Al-Qaeda is more powerful now than ever before, and we have fewer allies," he said.

With a rare all-night session of the Senate Tuesday into Wednesday, Democrats battled anew to force through a plan to get most US combat troops home from Iraq by the end of April.

But despite help from several Republican rebels, they seemed certain to fall short of the 60-vote super-majority in the 100-member chamber needed to thwart Republican blocking tactics.

John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said the NIE "should strengthen our resolve to protect the American people from a determined enemy bent on destroying our way of life."

"Our efforts have helped stop terror plots worldwide before they happen, saved American lives, and have made our country safer than on 9/11," he said.

 

Congress approves Iran sanctions extension

Pentagon says IS jihadists making 'last stand' in Sirte

Staggering casualty toll in Mosul offensive

Putin getting admirers from US to Europe to Syria

Qarawiyyin library holds written wonders

Syria regime seizes half of rebel parts of Aleppo

Europol warns of changing IS tactics

Palestinian contenders for Fatah posts set to declare

Protests erupt in Istanbul over ‘Aleppo massacre’

Aleppo family reunited after war kept them apart for months

Syria rebels put up fight for key Aleppo district

Obama unlikely to act on Israel-Palestine before leaving office

UN says torture 'widespread' after Turkey coup

International push aims to protect endangered heritage

Journalist's body found shot in Iraq’s Kurdish region

Iran urges Kenya to release two of its citizens

Morocco business diplomacy at heart of strategy to rejoin African Union

Turkish prosecutor calls for drop of Gaza ship charges against Israelis

Iran preparing ‘appropriate’ response to US sanctions renewal

Saudi government detects fresh hacking attempts

Iraq faces post-IS problem in Shiite militias

Turkey detains business executive for alleged Gulen links

Putin says Russia not looking for enemies

Tunisia sentences protesters to 14 years in jail

Saudi increases jail term for rights activist to 11 years

Misery deepens for Mosul refugees with heavy rain

Turkish parliament to vote on bill expanding Erdogan’s power

UN envoy to Yemen, President meet in new peace bid

Syrian Grand Mufti rejects terrorism claims

Qatar blocks popular news website

Desperate civilians brave Aleppo front line

OPEC spares Iran oil production cuts

Minister says Abbas is Israel's top 'ideological' foe

Erdogan insists Syria operation only targets terrorists

Kuwait opposition must form strong coalition to be effective

Russian FM denies Russia, Syria to blame for Turkish deaths

UN warns of ‘giant graveyard’ in Aleppo as Syrian troops advance

Nobel laureates call for protection of heritage sites

OPEC output cut boosts oil price

Morocco accuses AU chair of blocking readmission

Israel delays Knesset vote on mosque volume, settler homes

Mayors from world’s biggest cities plot Trump-era climate plan

Syria rebels, Russia hold Aleppo talks in Ankara

Russia demands explanation over Erdogan vow to oust Assad

Prospects for Palestine remain grim