Sunday, August 14, 2005

Iraq war boosted Islamic extremist threat- Carter


Iraq war boosted Islamic extremist threat- Carter

KINGS BAY, Georgia (Reuters) - The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has boosted the ranks and morale of extremist Islamic groups and made them a greater threat to U.S. interests, former President Jimmy Carter said on Friday.

"We have not lessened the strength of terrorists around the world and have not lessened but have increased both the number and the fervor and the organizational capabilities of terrorists," Carter said in a news conference at this U.S. naval base in southeastern Georgia.

Carter, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and one of the fiercest U.S. critics of the war in Iraq, added that he was opposed to a sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops "because it would lead to a "debacle" in the Middle Eastern nation.

Carter's comments came one day after President George W. Bush rejected calls for a quick pullout. Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch in Texas, said a premature withdrawal would betray the Iraqis just as they are being trained to defend themselves and eventually take over from U.S. soldiers.

More than 1,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed since a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein from power.

Carter was in Kings Bay, Georgia, to tour the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, a newly commissioned nuclear submarine. Carter, a former Navy submarine officer, and his wife, Rosalynn, spent Thursday night on the submerged vessel.