WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 – The threat of terrorist attacks from al-Qaida and their affiliates “is not a threat that’s going away,” President Barack Obama said today at the White House. “We have to take it seriously.”
Speaking at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Obama said he believes the American and Australian people understand this brutal fact and the need to continue standing up to terrorists.
For Americans, “What’s been burned into our memory is the events of 9/11,” the president said.
“But I think the Australian people remember what happened in Bali,” he said, referring to the 2002 bombings in Indonesia that killed 202 people, including many Australians.
“That’s not something that we will forget,” Obama said. “And as a consequence, it’s important for us to stay on the offensive and to dismantle these terrorist organizations, wherever they are.”
That’s a difficult task, he conceded. “It’s one that requires us to stay focused. It requires effective, coordinated action. It requires a recognition that we will not just solve these problems militarily.” The United States must become “much more effective diplomatically” and “much more effective on the development front,” he said. “And my expectation would be that over the next several years, you are going to see a more comprehensive strategy, a more focused strategy, a more disciplined strategy to achieve our common goals.”
Obama said the American people, like the Australian people, don’t like deploying their young people overseas for extended periods. It’s expensive to the country and “puts enormous strain on families,” he said.
“And some don’t return,” he continued. “That’s always something that weighs on the minds of the public.”
But Obama said he believes the American and Australian people share another recognition: “In order for us to keep our homeland safe, in order to maintain our way of life and in order to ensure order … on the international scene, that we can’t allow vicious killers to have their way,” he said. “And we’re going to do what’s required to ensure that does not happen.”
Australia is a crucial U.S. ally in the Afghan war and the largest non-NATO force contributor to the International Security Assistance Force, defense officials noted.
Most of its 1,000 troops in Afghanistan serve in the southern province of Uruzgan, and the rest are part of a provincial reconstruction team there. Ten Australian soldiers have died in the Afghan conflict. Australia also has been a staunch supporter of anti-terror and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.