WASHINGTON – Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's Democratic presidential rivals slammed him Wednesday, calling it a sign of inexperience to suggest sending GIs to Pakistan to hunt down Al Qaeda terrorists, declaring that, "if President Musharraf won't act, we will."
"Frankly, I am not sure what Barack is calling for in his speech this morning. But it is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
In his speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C., — billed as a major foreign policy address — Obama said that as commander in chief he would remove troops from Iraq and put them "on the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
He offered harsh words to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been the target of assassination attempts for his efforts to aid the United States in rooting out terrorist havens in the northwestern region of his country.
"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again," Obama said. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."
Obama said he would place heavy conditions on the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid if Pakistan isn't up to the task of combating terrorists.
"Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan," he said.
Obama's critics said being confrontational toward Pakistan doesn't help fight the War on Terror.
Hunting down Usama bin Laden and stopping terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons is a priority, Dodd said. "But I will not declare my intentions for specific military action to the media in the context of a political campaign."
"My international experience tells me that we should address this problem with tough diplomacy with General Musharraf first, leaving the military as a last resort. It is important to reach out to moderate Muslim states and allies to ensure we do not unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, another 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.
Sen. Joe Biden said he wrote the recently passed law that conditions aid to Pakistan on its cooperation with the United States in combating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"Before writing the law, Biden wrote to President Musharraf and Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice making clear his intent to do so," a statement from Biden's campaign reads.
The statement then went on to ridicule Obama for not asking Amb. John Negroponte at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in January anything about Afghanistan or the Taliban, and quoted him discussing the “stunning level of mercury in fish.”
“It’s good to see Sen. Obama has finally arrived at the right position, but this can hardly be considered bold leadership.” said Biden campaign manager Luis Navarro.
In his remarks, Obama had plenty of criticism of President Bush for his handling of the War on Terror.
"The president would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of Al Qaeda's war against us, not an Iraqi civil war. He elevates Al Qaeda in Iraq — which didn't exist before our invasion — and overlooks the people who hit us on 9/11, who are training new recruits in Pakistan," Obama said, adding: "He confuses our mission."
Bush has said he would order military action if intelligence showed top terror leaders were hiding in Afghanistan, but the relationship with Musharraf has been friendly and cooperative.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said none of the administration's policies about keeping military options open to respond to actionable intelligence precludes working with the Pakistanis. He cited the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as an example of an important joint operation that yielded successful results.
"Our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government," he said.
In his remarks, Obama made no mention of Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton. She called his foreign policy views last week naive and has continued to build a growing lead in the polls amid increasingly vocal concerns among Democratic voters about Obama's relative lack of experience.
While she and other Democrats say the United States is safer since Sept. 11, 2001, Obama continues to disagree.
"Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11," he said.
FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed do this report.