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Bush Says Pakistan Moving Against Al-Qaida


President Bush says Pakistan is taking steps to oust al-Qaida terrorists from their safe haven in tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats say it is time for the president to start planning for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

President Bush used his weekly radio address to reflect on the past week's National Intelligence Estimate, which says al-Qaida terrorists have rebuilt much of their capacity to strike thanks to the safe haven they have found in Pakistan.

The report attributes the al-Qaida resurgence to a deal that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made with tribal leaders last year. President Musharraf agreed to withdraw government troops in exchange for a promise that tribal leaders would not allow the Taleban or al-Qaida to use the area.

President Bush says President Musharraf understands that plan was a mistake and is taking active steps to correct it.

"Pakistani forces are in the fight, and many have given their lives," said Mr. Bush. "The United States supports them in these efforts. And we will work with our partners to deny safe haven to the Taleban and al-Qaida in Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world."

Mr. Bush says the new intelligence estimate reminds Americans that they face a persistent and evolving threat from al-Qaida nearly six years after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

"The men who run al-Qaida are determined, capable, and ruthless," he added. "They would be in a far stronger position to attack our people if America's military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other elements of our government were not engaged in a worldwide effort to stop them."

The president says American troops must keep fighting al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq to prevent them from striking the United States.

A public opinion poll this past week by CBS News and The New York Times says 74 percent of Americans believe the war is going badly. And nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the fight.

Despite that public opposition, and growing discontent within the president's own political party, White House officials appear confident that they have at least until September to change opinions about the war.

That is when the administration next reports to Congress on the progress of the president's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Iraq.

In the Democratic radio address, Senator Carl Levin says the intelligence estimate shows the war in Iraq is not making America safer, because during that war there has been an increase in terrorist threats.

Levin is sponsoring legislation to force President Bush to start withdrawing U.S. combat troops within 120 days. After an all-night debate this past week, the amendment failed to gain enough votes for passage, despite several Republicans voting for it and several more voicing their concern about the conduct of the war.

Levin says Democratic leaders will force another vote on the bill.

"If those Republicans who say they want a change in course in Iraq will vote for one, we can start bringing our troops home and force the Iraqi political leaders to take responsibility for their own country," he said. "That is the only hope of success in Iraq."

Levin's legislation would give President Bush until next April to reposition U.S. troops to protect American diplomats, train Iraqi soldiers, and focus more on fighting al-Qaida.

President Bush says he will not decide to withdraw troops from Iraq based on the advice of politicians in Washington. He says it is up to commanders in the field to decide when the fight it won.

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