Last Thursday marked the seventh anniversary of September 11, 2001, a day when nearly 3,000 innocent people were tragically lost and the lives of all Americans were changed forever. September 11 represented one of the darkest moments in our history, yet through all the tragedy endured that day, it will also be remembered as a day where Americans united and showed their greatness.
In the seven years since the attacks, America has not forgotten the resolve and strength that was so evident on that terrible day. Great progress has been made in securing our nation since then, and we remain determined to protect our people from the terrorists who wish to do us harm.
PROTECTING THE HOMELAND
Since September 11, our nation’s top priority has been to protect Americans from another attack. To help achieve this, Congress came together to pass the Patriot Act, legislation that gave our law enforcement officials new tools to detect terror threats and prevent attacks on our citizens. Additionally, through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, 22 federal entities were streamlined into one in order to centralize our efforts to protect our country and make our government more effective.
These efforts, along with the hard work of thousands of dedicated professionals in our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, have helped thwart numerous terror plots. For example, in June of last year, our intelligence community disrupted a plot to blow up major fuel tanks at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. One month later, the FBI arrested six al Qaeda-inspired individuals plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey. These successes are neither luck nor coincidence. Our homeland has not been attacked since September 11, 2001, because our country has given our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools necessary to help us combat the War on Terror.
WAR ON TERROR PROGRESS
In the fall of 2006, the situation in Iraq looked grim. The difficult decision was then made to increase the number of troops in Iraq to stabilize the country and root out the terrorists who were blocking progress and killing our soldiers. Today, we are seeing the dividends of that decision. Last week, Anbar Province, the one-time heart of the Iraqi insurgency, was handed back to Iraqi civilian authorities. Violence in Iraq is at its lowest point since the spring of 2004. The reduced violence and continued progress of the Iraqi government led President Bush last week to order 8,000 troops home by February 2009.
By removing the Taliban from power, destroying al Qaeda training facilities and liberating the Afghan people, we have also had success in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. While progress has been made, challenges remain. The terrorists’ defeat in Iraq has led them to refocus on Afghanistan, and the Taliban is regaining strength there. As we begin to draw down in Iraq, a renewed focus is being put on Afghanistan, where the fight first began, to ensure we continue the progress made in the war against terrorism.
MAINTAINING OUR RESOLVE
As we reflect on the anniversary of September 11, let us always pay tribute to those we lost that day, as well as the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in an effort to protect us since then. As a way to honor these heroes, we should build on the successes we have had and renew our resolve to defeat the evil of terrorism in order to keep our country free and secure.