Obama: Shift Troops to Fight al-Qaida

The Associated Press
Saturday, July 14, 2007; 4:24 PM

OELWEIN, Iowa -- The U.S. should shift troops from Iraq to pursue al-Qaida along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Saturday.

He said President Bush's war-fighting policies have left the United States at greater risk from terrorists. The first-term Illinois senator said decisions by the Republican president had allowed Osama bin Laden and his deputies to elude capture.

"We cannot win a war against the terrorists if we're on the wrong battlefield," Obama said. "America must urgently begin deploying from Iraq and take the fight more effectively to the enemy's home by destroying al-Qaida's leadership along the Afghan-Pakistan border, eliminating their command and control networks and disrupting their funding."

Obama spoke during his 15th trip to Iowa, where precinct caucuses set for January begin the presidential nominating process. He opened his day with a rally on the shores of a lake in Oelwein before his later stops.

The senator focused on the threat of terrorism just days after a new U.S. intelligence assessment warned that al-Qaida has succeeded in rebuilding its strength.

"What I would say is that as a consequence of bad decisions we are more at risk and less safe than we should have been at this point, given all the resources we have spent and the U.S. lives that have been lost," Obama said.

Obama contended the Bush administration erred by choosing to fight in Iraq rather than concentrating on Afghanistan, where he said al-Qaida has rebuilt itself.

"They have entirely regrouped along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," Obama said. "The threat of terrorism has actually increased and we've seen a massive spike in terrorist activity, in part because we did not finish the job in Afghanistan and were distracted by a war of choice in Iraq."

Obama stuck with the issue of terrorism during a later stop in Manchester, where about 300 people packed into a school gymnasium, even with a popular county fair just across the street.

"When I am president of the United States I will make this pledge: Nobody will work harder to go after those terrorists who will do the American people harm," Obama said. "But that requires a commander in chief who understands our troops need to be on the right battlefield, not the wrong battlefield."

Ahead on the schedule was an appearance with Democratic rivals Joe Biden and John Edwards at a workshop in Peosta.

© 2007 The Associated Press