President Obama has declared this weekend a national time of prayer as the country marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
In his weekly White House address, Obama said Americans honor the heroism of first responders who risked their lives and remember the nearly 3,000 people killed on that day.
"At the same time," the president said, "even as we reflect on a difficult decade, we must look forward to the future we will build together." Reiterating statements of current and previous national security officials, Obama claimed al-Qaida, the terrorist organization behind the attacks, was "on the path to defeat."
He also used the occasion to demonstrate his administration's stepped-up engagement in Afghanistan and attacks on al-Qaida operatives throughout the world. "Over the past two and a half years, more senior al-Qaida leaders have been eliminated than at any time since 9/11," he said, citing among the changes "investing in our Special Forces, so terrorists have no safe haven."
Obama came into office renewing Washington's focus on killing or capturing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The previous administration of George W. Bush had diverted resources to invade and occupy Iraq, allowing the resurgence of the terrorist group and its militant sponsors, the Taliban, in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was finally killed this year during a Navy Seal raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
And while the president said the resilience of the American people has endured in the decade after the attacks, he warned of the possibility of future terrorist attacks.
Both New York and Washington, D.C., have been on a heightened state of alert after reports from the administration of credible sources suggesting possible attacks to coincide with commemorations of the 10th anniversary.
"We remain vigilant," the president said. "We’re doing everything in our power to protect our people. And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on."
The nation, President Obama said, was turning its attention back to the homeland with the shifting of the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Repeating past statements, he said "after a hard decade of war, it is time for nation-building here at home."
Despite the battering American diplomacy endured with the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan the president insisted the U.S. has "forged new partnerships with nations around the world to meet the global challenges that no nation can face alone."
He pointed to the revolts rattling dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and North Africa as a sign that new generations "want to build, not destroy."
He ended with a tribute to the extraordinary courage shown by ordinary Americans who "rushed up those stairwells, into those flames, into that cockpit," the president said. "In the decade since, a new generation has stepped forward to serve and keep us safe. In their memory, in their name, we will never waver. We will protect the country we love and pass it safer, stronger and more prosperous to the next generation."