Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Bush seeks to tie deadly Iraq violence to bin Laden

LOSING SUPPORT The US president did not mention a newly released intelligence report that said al-Qaeda was reinvigorated and was plotting new attacks from Pakistan

AFP , CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

US President George W. Bush, trying to reverse ebbing support for the Iraq war, sought on Tuesday to tie deadly violence there directly to al-Qaeda terrorist chief Osama bin Laden.

Facing mounting calls for a US withdrawal, and intelligence findings that the unpopular war is a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda, Bush warned that a hasty US pullout would increase the risk of an attack in the US.

"However difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it, and we can win it," Bush said in a speech to uniformed military personnel. "Surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda would be a disaster to our country."

Bush said that bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, pulled the strings of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that did not exist before the March 2003 US-led invasion.

"Some say that Iraq is not a part of the broader war on terror," he said. "They claim that the organization called al-Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and it's not interested in attacking America. That would be news to Osama bin Laden."

Bush did not mention a newly public US intelligence report that found that al-Qaeda had been reinvigorated and was plotting new attacks from a safe haven in remote tribal areas of Pakistan.

The report, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) grouping the consensus findings of the US spy agencies, also declared that al-Qaeda in Iraq was the terrorist network's "most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland," meaning the US.

A previous NIE found that the war in Iraq was an effective recruiting tool for Islamist extremists, including al-Qaeda.

"The president is trying to scare the American people into believing that al-Qaeda is the rationale for continuing the war in Iraq," said Democratic Senator John Kerry.

"9/11 was not plotted in Iraq, 9/11 did not happen from an al-Qaeda in Iraq," he said. "The fact is, al-Qaeda has grown in its strength and its presence in Iraq because we are there."

The Pentagon, in its latest quarterly report to the US Congress, said last month that al-Qaeda in Iraq was "the primary threat" in restive Anbar Province but that they played a smaller role in the overall picture.

"The increasingly complex conflict has remained a struggle among and within ethno-sectarian, criminal, insurgent and terrorist groups to wrest political and economic power from the elected GoI [government of Iraq]," it said.

"Much of the violence is attributable to sectarian friction, and each faction is driven by its own political and economic power relationships," the US military said.

Also see story:
UK troops on `suicide missions' in Iraq, MPs say

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