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On the Record

Q&A on Terrorism at the Sixth Anniversary of 9/11

“Six years after September 11, the threat we face from Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda is more serious than ever. Osama bin Laden, as he dramatically demonstrated last week, is alive and well. More importantly, he’s still in contact with his apparatus-not just the propaganda apparatus but the operational apparatus, which is planning attacks against America and its allies around the world. In the last week, police in Denmark, police in Germany have foiled terrorist plots that they say were linked back to al Qaeda and to Pakistan. We saw in Algeria an attempt by an al Qaeda franchise organization to assassinate the president of the country, Mr. Bouteflika. This is an organization which should have been destroyed five years ago but which has recovered has been resurrected and is as lethal and dangerous now as it has ever been.

“And until we destroy the enemy in their nest, which is along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, we’re going to be constantly on guard and under threat from them.

“The Iraq war is a diversion from the front-there is an al Qaeda in Iraq but it didn’t exist before the invasion and it has thrived on the occupation. The al Qaeda franchise in Iraq is a deadly threat to our forces there. But so far there is no evidence it’s ever tried to mount an attack against the United States directly or against our allies in Europe. The al Qaeda core in Pakistan and Afghanistan has mounted those attacks. It attacked us on September 11, it attacked London in 2005, it probably was involved in the Madrid bombings – it’s been involved in scores of attacks around the world.

“I think we urgently need to devote significant resources to the battle against al Qaeda and its Taliban ally in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need a surge of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan of a very large magnitude. We need a massive economic reconstruction program for Afghanistan along the lines of the Marshall plan we used in Western Europe. And we need a much more vigorous diplomatic encounter with Pakistan.

“Pakistan is at the nexus of al Qaeda’s operations. Every al Qaeda plot foiled in the United Kingdom in the last five years had a Pakistani connection. The orders came out of Pakistan. We have coddled a Pakistani dictator for six years we’ve gotten very little in the way of concrete results. We need to look at this problem in a very fresh and new way and recognize that because we haven’t put the resources into Afghanistan, and because of the political crisis in Pakistan today, Osama bin Laden’s room for maneuver is growing. He has more room to operate in South Asia today than he had a year ago. If Pakistan devolves into political crisis his room will increase even more. We urgently need to narrow his room for operation rather than let it continue to grow larger.”

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