CONCORD, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson says the U.S. should shift its anti-terrorism focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, making the defeat of Al Qaeda the top priority.
Without such a shift, U.S. allies will hold back support, Richardson said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday.
"We urgently must redirect our military effort away from Iraq — where Al Qaeda's leadership is not located — and toward the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — where they are located," Richardson said. "When our allies see that we finally have gotten our priorities straight — that we have revived our commitment to going after the Al Qaeda leadership where it is — only then will they provide enough troops to overwhelm the enemy."
The New Mexico governor planned to outline what he called a "grand strategy" for defeating Al Qaeda in a speech Friday afternoon at Southern New Hampshire University. In a copy provided to The Associated Press, Richardson mixes baseball and boxing metaphors in criticizing President Bush's approach.
"If only the president had kept his eye on the ball and finished the job when he had the chance," he said. "Al Qaeda was on the ropes in 2002, cornered in the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. If our troops had been given the resources they needed, we could have finished them off."
Instead, he said, Bush diverted resources from "that necessary war to a war of choice" and became too "lost in his delusions of an easy peace" to realize that Al Qaeda was sending fighters to Iraq to provoke a civil war.
In addition to a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and redirecting them to Afghanistan, Richardson calls for encouraging nations such as Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to send troops to stabilize the country.