Senate Democrats

Reid: Congress Must Change Course In Iraq, Refocus Strategy On Fighting Terrorism

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today in response to President Bush’s remarks this morning: 

“The President today made the best case yet for why Congress must insist on a change of strategy in Iraq.  Intelligence analysts concluded long ago that Iraq has indeed become a training ground and recruiting poster for a new generation of terrorists.  That is exactly why it is so important to change course from the President’s failed Iraq strategy to a new strategy that more effectively fights terrorists.

“Recently, the Director of National Intelligence told Congress that the next Al Qaeda attack on the United States ‘most likely would be planned and come out of the [Al Qaeda] leadership in Pakistan.’  More than five years after 9/11, it is disappointing that the Bush Administration has failed to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahari, failed to prevent new Al Qaeda cells from emerging in dozens of countries, and failed to win the hearts and minds of millions around the world.  It is time for a new, more effective strategy, and Democrats are determined to see that change occurs.”   


Fighting Terrorism 

As Iraq becomes a breeding ground for terrorism, the Bush Administration has become distracted from fighting al-Qaeda along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding. It’s time to refocus our nation’s efforts on a strategy to effectively fight terrorism.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said that Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan/Pakistan is much more likely to guide the next attack on the United States than terrorists in Iraq.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI): Well, the question would be: If you had to establish a probability of a successful attack being organized and directed against the United States, would it emanate from Pakistan, with this newly revised Al Qaida leadership, or would it come out of Iraq?

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell: My belief is the attack most likely would be planned and come out of the leadership in Pakistan. (Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing,2/27/07)

Al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan is raising money from Iraq.  “In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.”  (L.A. Times, 5/20/07)

There has been a fourfold increase in Afghan territory controlled by America’s enemies in the past year.  “ . . .major Al Qa’ida, Taliban, Haqqani Network, and Hezb-e Islami Gulbidden sanctuaries exist in Pakistan   . . . the areas they operate within Afghanistan increased by more than four times between 2005 and 2006.” [Breaking Point: Measuring Progress in Afghanistan, CSIS, 2/23/07]

The U.S. has allowed Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists.   “’There is a growing consensus that our Pakistan policy is not working,’ said Derek Chollet, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington who estimates that over the past five years the United States has sent $10 billion in aid to Pakistan — and perhaps as much in covert funds.” [New York Times, 2/27/07

Foreign policy expert Anthony Cordesman says enemies have regrouped and are gaining strength.  “Reconstituted enemy is more lethal and shows increased capacity for effective asymmetric warfare, including effective information operations.”  [Anthony Cordesman, Winning in Afghanistan: Afghan Force Development, 12/16/06]

Terrorism expert Ahmed Rashid describes “a fully operational al-Qaeda base” along the Afghanistan/Pakistan Border.  “In North and South Waziristan, the tribal regions along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, an alliance of extremist groups that includes al-Qaeda, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, Central Asians, and Chechens has won a significant victory against the army of Pakistan. The army, which has lost some 800 soldiers in the past three years, has retreated, dismantled its checkpoints, released al-Qaeda prisoners and is now paying large ‘compensation’ sums to the extremists. This region, considered ‘terrorism central’ by U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, is now a fully operational al-Qaeda base area offering a wide range of services, facilities, and military and explosives training for extremists around the world planning attacks. Waziristan is now a regional magnet. In the past six months up to 1,000 Uzbeks, escaping the crackdown in Uzbekistan after last year’s massacre by government security forces in the town of Andijan, have found sanctuary with al-Qaeda in Waziristan.”  [Ahmed Rashid, Washington Post, 9/11/06]

Worldwide terror attacks increased by 25% in 2006.  “In its annual global survey of terrorism  . .  .the State Department says about 14,000 attacks took place in 2006, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. These strikes claimed more than 20,000 lives — two-thirds in Iraq. That is 3,000 more attacks than in 2005 and 5,800 more deaths.”  (AP, 4/30/07)