Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry, in a foreign policy address in Washington, has stepped up his criticism of the Bush administration's policies on Iraq and Afghanistan. The speech comes less than six weeks before U.S. congressional elections, in which Democrats hope to regain control of one or both houses.
Senator Kerry, in a speech before the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, cited the findings of a recent report that found the war in Iraq is fueling the spread of Islamic radicalism.
The Bush administration this week released part of the National Intelligence Estimate, which warned the Iraq war is one reason the number of terrorists is growing, a trend that could lead to more attacks around the world.
Kerry, who lost to President Bush in a closely contested election in 2004, says the findings show that the Bush administration's efforts to fight terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States are not working.
"The true measure of that is the stark fact that, worldwide, terrorist attacks are at an all time high, and there are now more terrorists in the world, who want to kill Americans than there were at the time of 9/11," said Mr. Kerry. "That is a failed policy."
The intelligence report also says President Bush's efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East could help undermine extremists.
Mr. Bush has consistently said that victory in Iraq would be a major blow to the terrorists.
"This government is going to do whatever it takes to protect this homeland," said Mr. Bush. "We are not going to let their excuses stop us from staying on the offense. The best way to protect America is to defeat these killers overseas, so we do not have to face them here at home."
Kerry says there should be a timetable for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, something the Bush administration opposes.
He is also highly critical of the president's policy on Afghanistan, saying that country is slipping dangerously backward.
"The Taleban resurging still threatens the Karzai government," said Mr. Kerry. "The opium trade has increased by 60 percent last year. Roadside bomb attacks more than doubled this year, and suicide attacks have more than tripled. Forty-percent of the population is unemployed. Ninety percent lack regular electricity and we know the risks. We already know the risks of allowing Afghanistan to become a terrorist haven. That is, after all, why we got into this in the first place."
Kerry's criticism came on the same day the U.S. military said militant attacks have tripled in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan.
President Bush, who met this week with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, says U.S. and NATO troops are moving to defeat the insurgents.
"In recent months, the Taleban and other extremists have tried to regain control, mostly in the south of Afghanistan," added Mr. Bush. "So, we have adjusted tactics, and we are on the offense, to meet the threat and to defeat the threat."
The upcoming elections in the United States have sparked a fierce debate between Republicans and Democrats over the conflict in Iraq and the global war on terrorism.
Senator Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president two years ago, and declined during this latest appearance to say if he will run again in 2008.