THE BLOG
06/09/2006 02:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Redeploying from Iraq, Refocusing on Terrorist Networks

I commend our military forces for their success in targeting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The death of this ruthless terrorist, who led an insurgent campaign of brutal suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, is great news for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It is also a testament to the professionalism and capability of the men and women in the U.S. military and the effectiveness of well-planned and targeted operations.

Al-Zarqawi's death, however, will not end the insurgency that has pushed Iraq into a violent downward spiral. As we herald this significant accomplishment, we also near a very sad marker: the 2,500th death of an American soldier in Iraq. As long as large numbers of U.S. troops remain indefinitely in Iraq, that tragic death toll will continue to rise, because Iraq will remain a crucible for the recruitment and development of a wide range of terrorist networks determined to fight so-called American 'occupiers.'

The first step in creating a strong national security policy is recognizing that our massive presence in Iraq weakens our national security. Our Iraq-centric policies are diverting resources and attention from other places around the world where terrorist networks that threaten the U.S. are operating. We need to redeploy troops from Iraq so that we can focus resources on global terrorist networks and the conditions throughout the world that allow them to take root and thrive. I have repeatedly called for our troops to redeploy from Iraq by the end of 2006, and have filed an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill -- which the Senate will be taking up next week -- that would give that deadline the force of law.

It's time to return to our true national security mission in the wake of 9/11 by crafting a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism. Our approach must be global, taking into consideration that our enemies can move easily in places with little or no governance, and can use 21st century technology to communicate, plan, and even execute attacks against us. This strategy must focus on developing strong partnerships with countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Mali, focused not only on security assistance, but on the development of a strong rule of law, respect for human rights, and fighting corruption.

A comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism must also address countries like Somalia. Failed states like Somalia are the breeding grounds for terrorism and instability. We know that this East African country is home to a range of terrorist and criminal networks that operate throughout the region. Yet, the U.S. government currently has no strategy to eliminate the conditions that allow these terrorists to train, equip, rest, and plan. Our budget for programs to counter these conditions is a mere $2 million per year, excluding food aid. That's roughly $1.6 billion less than we are spending on Iraq every week.

This Administration's single-minded focus on Iraq has crippled our ability to address the threats we face around the world. We should redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year so that we can refocus on our true mission in the wake of 9/11: defeating the global terrorist networks that threaten us.