Bin Laden himself has said that "The most 'serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War' [that is] raging in [ Iraq ]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He said, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation." And in words directed at the American people, bin Laden declares, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever."
This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as a base for the establishment of the caliphate. He has also said, "Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States . Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States . Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars."
Obviously, the terrorists are under no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq . They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States . Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. And here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then you ought to support it where the terrorists are fighting us.
The stakes are high on both sides, and no one should understate the difficulty of the work yet to be done. The new force commander, General Dave Petraeus, has said that the operational environment is the most complex and challenging he's ever seen. Yet there's reason to be confident. We have a new strategy in place to help Iraqis secure the population, especially in Baghdad . To move that process forward, we've sent in reinforcements. The last of these reinforcements arrived in theater in the middle of last month -- the middle of June. We're now in a surge of operations.
The new strategy in Iraq is, obviously, still in the early stages of implementation. It will be a while before we can fully assess how well it's going. Yet there is unmistakable progress inside Iraq . More locals are getting into the fight. More good intelligence information is coming in. And in al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad , the turnaround in recent months has been extraordinary. Late last year, some critics were saying that al-Anbar was lost to the terrorists. But the United States Marine Corps had another idea. They went into al-Anbar and did careful, painstaking work to confront the killers and to build confidence in the general population. Today, with the help of local Sunni sheiks, we have driven al Qaeda from the seat of power in al-Anbar. And we're now trying to achieve the same results in other parts of Iraq .
It is still tough going. But even some critics of the Iraq operation who have taken time to look at the facts are admitting that tremendous changes have taken place. And this is no time to lose heart and make a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq , as some in Congress are demanding. (Applause.) To quit this fight would be to lose this fight, and the consequences would be grievous.
History provides its own lessons, and none perhaps is better than the example of Afghanistan in the 1980s. During those years, Afghanistan was a major front in the Cold War, and the U.S. was actively involved in supporting efforts to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan . The strategic significance was clear to all, and that's why we were heavily engaged in the area. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, everybody walked away from Afghanistan .
From that point on, various extremist factions began to vie for power. There was a civil war. By the end of the 1990s, the Taliban had emerged and had a hammerlock on the country, and they had provided a safe haven and sanctuary for Osama bin Laden and for training camps that trained somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 al Qaeda terrorists in the late 1990s. All of that, of course, led directly to the attacks here in the United States on September 11th, 2001 .