By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
May 10, 2007 – Al Qaeda terrorists have chosen Iraq as the central front in their worldwide campaign against freedom, so America must stay in the fight to prevent them from establishing a safe haven from which to launch more attacks, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said in Iraq today. Al Qaeda leaders believe they can wear down the United States, force the troops out of Iraq and make the country a launching pad for new attacks in the region and abroad, Cheney said in remarks to members of the Army's 25th Infantry Division in Tikrit. "The terrorists have stated these ambitions clearly, and this is where they've decided to fight," he said. "The United States also has made a decision. As the prime target of a global war against terror, we will stay on the offensive; we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."
Echoing comments by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Cheney said that the operational environment in Iraq is complex and challenging. Extremists from inside and outside the country are trying to stir violence and hinder the progress of the fledgling democracy, he said.
Through these challenges, however, the Iraqi people have shown courage and fortitude in pursuing freedom and democracy, Cheney said. U.S. troops are in Iraq to help establish basic security, which is essential for that progress to move forward, he said.
"The United States is the kind of country that stands up to brutality, terror and injustice, and you're the kind of people we depend upon to get the job done," Cheney told the troops.
Cheney thanked the troops for their service and sacrifices, as many of them are serving on extended deployments. "As members of an historic division of the U.S. Army, you're serving on a vital mission in a strategic part of the world," he told them. "The job you're doing here has a direct impact on the security of the United States."
During his visit, Cheney presented medals to several soldiers. He presented the Combat Action Badge to two soldiers, the Combat Infantryman Badge to two soldiers, the Air Medal to five soldiers, and the Bronze Star with valor device to two soldiers.
"You need to know that your country does not take you for granted, not for a single minute," Cheney said to the gathered troops. "We're grateful to your families back home, because they also are making sacrifices for America. While you're out here in the desert heat and the dust and the heavy winds, you're constantly in the thoughts of millions of your fellow citizens."
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