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Obama Says Al-Qaeda in Retreat, America Stronger Before 9/11 Anniversary

President Barack Obama said that while al-Qaeda will “keep trying to hit us again” the U.S. is better prepared for a terrorist attack ten years after the Sept. 11 anniversary than ever before.

“Ten years ago, ordinary Americans showed us the true meaning of courage when they rushed up those stairwells, into those flames, into that cockpit,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “In the decade since, a new generation has stepped forward to serve and keep us safe.”

The president said the U.S. will “remain vigilant” and “no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on.”

Security has been stepped up in New York and Washington after officials received credible information that terrorists may be plotting an attack in one of the cities around the Sept. 11 anniversary.

The threat concerns a possible al-Qaeda-sponsored attack targeting New York or Washington on or near the anniversary, said a U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The official said the intelligence concerns a possible vehicle-borne attack, perhaps on a transportation hub or bottleneck, and cautioned that the options may be broader than a car or truck bombing.

Path to Defeat

Thanks to the work of U.S. military personnel, intelligence and law enforcement officers, “America is stronger and al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat,” Obama said.

The president said that since he’s taken office “more senior al-Qaeda leaders have been eliminated than at any time since 9/11” and he pointed to the May killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as a victory in the fight against Islamic extremism.

Obama said that the U.S. has “taken the fight to al-Qaeda like never before” in the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93 that crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. Obama is marking the 10th anniversary tomorrow with visits to all three sites.

“A decade after 9/11, it’s clear for all the world to see -- the terrorists who attacked us that September morning are no match for the character of our people, the resilience of our nation, or the endurance of our values,” Obama said in the address.

The president said that he is ending the war in Iraq and drawing down troops on Afghanistan “even as we put relentless pressure on al-Qaeda.”

Decade of War

“After a hard decade of war, it is time for nation building here at home,” he said.

Obama said on June 22 that the surge of military forces he ordered to Afghanistan in 2009 has accomplished its objectives and he announced his decision to pull the 33,000 extra troops from the country by the summer of 2012. About 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of this year and the remainder would return home by September 2012.

All 46,000 U.S. combat troops in the Iraq are scheduled to leave by the end of the year unless Iraq and the U.S. reach a new agreement and the Iraqi parliament ratifies it by a two- thirds vote.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor on Sept. 11, said in the Republicans’ weekly address that U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be put on “timetables.”

“We must not allow impatience to prevent our military from achieving its objective in Iraq and Afghanistan and the objective is the elimination of the threat to our nation,” he said.

Terrorists ‘Failed’

Giuliani said that the terrorists on Sept. 11 “failed” at their goal of breaking America’s spirit.

“The country was not broken, but rather, it was more united in the days after September 11 than at any time in my lifetime,” he said.

Giuliani, who ran for the Republican nomination in the 2008 presidential campaign, said that, while efforts to stamp out Islamic extremism in Iraq and Afghanistan, stepped up security measures at airports, and improved methods of intelligence gathering have helped make the U.S. safer, it’s still not safe enough.

He said port security hasn’t been “significantly improved” and some state and local governments remain unprepared for an attack. He cited the failed attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as one of several “massive breakdowns in security.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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