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Bush: al-Qaida Trying to Regroup - 2002-04-17

President Bush has said al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan are trying to regroup. Mr. Bush said America and its allies in the war on terrorism must remain vigilant and on guard.

The president went to a private military college a few hours drive from Washington to give an update on the war. He said al-Qaida forces are on the run in Afghanistan.

But he warned the terrorist organization is trying to rebuild so it can take action against the interim government of Mohammed Karzai.

"As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup, to murder, to try to create mayhem and try to undermine Afghan's efforts to build a lasting peace," he said.

Mr. Bush said the United States will help preserve the peace in Afghanistan by training a new army, building roads and helping to feed and educate the Afghan people.

He said frustrated al-Qaida leaders might then try to build strength elsewhere. The president said wherever they go, they must be stopped. "We must prevent al-Qaida from moving its operations to other countries. We must deny terrorists the funds they need to operate," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush said the second front of the war on terrorism is unfolding in places like Georgia and Yemen where the United States is helping local governments deal with a terrorist threat. He also talked about the need to meet a related threat, that posed by rogue states seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Bush said a small number of what he termed, "outlaw regimes", are developing and seeking chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons while building ties to terrorists. "In their threat to peace, in their mad ambitions, in their destructive potential and in their repression of their own people, these regimes constitute an axis evil and the world must confront them," he said.

The president first used the phrase "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address in January listing Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Bush did not mention them by name in his address to cadets at the private Virginia Military Institute. But he said the United States would not sit idly by.

"America, along with other nations, will oppose the proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies. We will proceed with missile defenses to protect the American people, our troops and allies. And America will take the necessary action to oppose emerging threats," he said.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that the next big U.S. push in the war on terrorism could be against Iraq. President Bush has said that all options are on the table in dealing with the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but administration officials have indicated no military action is imminent.