PARIS — US President Barack Obama declared on Thursday that the Al-Qaeda network is nearing total defeat, having failed to destroy the United States’ “unique” leadership role in the world.
In an op-ed for the French daily Le Figaro penned to mark the tenth anniversary of the Islamist extremist group’s September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Obama thanked America’s allies and vowed to cooperate with them closely.
“Those who attacked us on 9/11 wanted to drive a wedge between the United States and the world. They failed. On this 10th anniversary, we are united with our friends and partners in remembering all those we have lost in this struggle,” he said.
“Working together, we have disrupted Al-Qaeda plots, eliminated Osama Bin Laden and much of his leadership and put Al-Qaeda on the path to defeat,” he said, welcoming the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
“Meanwhile, people across the Middle East and North Africa are showing that the surest path to justice and dignity is the moral force of nonviolence, not mindless terrorism and violence,” Obama added.
“It is clear that violent extremists are being left behind and that the future belongs to those who want to build, not destroy.”
Obama also sought to reassure the United States’ friends that his country’s economic problems will not cause it to turn in on itself.
“To nations and people seeking a future of peace and prosperity, you have a partner in the United States. For even as we confront economic challenges at home, the United States will continue to play a unique leadership role in the world.”
The piece in Le Figaro was separate from an earlier op-ed published in the US daily USA Today, in which he said the September 11 attackers were “no match for our resilience.”
The 2001 assault, in which four airliners were hijacked and crashed by suicide attackers from Saudi-born extremist Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, left more than 3,000 dead and led the United States to invade Afghanistan.
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, also used the attacks in part to justify his later 2003 invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, arguing that the dictator might share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists.
The new president has begun to scale back the US presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but in May sent commandos to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan.
“As President, I’ve worked to renew the global cooperation we need to meet the full breadth of global challenges that we face,” Obama wrote in Le Figaro.
“Through a new era of engagement, we’ve forged partnerships with nations and peoples based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
“As an international community, we have shown that terrorists are no match for the strength and resilience of our citizens,” Obama said, emphasising the new tone he has tried to set in international relations since succeeding Bush.
“I’ve made it clear that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Rather, with allies and partners we are united against al Qaeda, which has attacked dozens of countries and killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children — the vast majority of them Muslims.”
On Sunday, Obama will visit the “Ground Zero” site of the World Trade Centre twin towers then Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a seized civilian jet thought to be bound for Washington was downed in a revolt against the hijackers by passengers.
Obama is also due to visit the Pentagon, which was hit by another plane, and to attend a “Concert of Hope” at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country has 4,000 troops fighting as part of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, was to mark the anniversary of the attacks with a visit Friday to the US embassy in Paris.
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