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Senator Feinstein Speaks out on Afghan Attacks - 2002-09-05

A U.S. senator says Thursday's developments in Afghanistan highlight the need for the United States to remain focused on the war on terrorism rather than pursue any military campaign to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Senator Dianne Feinstein offered the first Congressional reaction to the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the separate bomb blasts in Kabul.

Senator Feinstein, a California Democrat and member of the Intelligence Committee, says Thursday's violence in Afghanistan makes clear the United States must stay the course in its war on terrorism there.

She underscored the fragile security situation noting that members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States, still have a presence in the country, as do their Taleban allies. "The Karzai government must have security and stability or it will perish, and so will democracy," she said. "Additionally we know the Taleban and al-Qaeda lurk in the remote mountains, waiting for an opportune moment to come back. If Afghanistan cannot be stabilized, its streets and homes made secure, and if its first democratic government cannot survive, this would be a very serious setback. Afghanistan is our beachhead on our war on terror. We cannot lose it, or we lose our war on terror."

In her speech on the Senate floor, Ms. Feinstein warned the Bush administration against considering a military campaign in Iraq before work is completed in Afghanistan. "An attack on Iraq at this time would only deflect from this war, by diverting attention and forces away from bringing justice to perpetrators of 9-11," said senator Feinstein. "Can we afford to do this?"

Although President Bush says Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and poses a threat to U.S. and regional interests, Ms. Feinstein joined a number of other lawmakers in arguing the administration has not yet made a convincing case for toppling the Iraqi leader.