A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

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Next question for Senator Obama. It comes from the F Section, and it’s from Katie Hamm. Katie?

Q Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies, like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Katie, it’s a terrific question.

And we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.

So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there.

They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the situation. They’re stronger now than at any time since 2001. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to reverse course because that’s the central front on terrorism. They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the Defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region, and that’s where it will end.

So part of the reason I think it’s so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that’s funding terrorism.

But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars, and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants. What I have said is we’re going encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our non-military aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out.

We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

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