Obama unveils new counterterrorism strategy

The White House released details of President Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism today, saying the U.S. will focus almost exclusively on destroying Al Qaeda.

The report, released today on the White House website, formally outlines the strategies the Obama administration has been pursuing. It says the U.S. will aim to “disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qa’ida—its leadership core in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, its affiliates and adherents to ensure the security of our citizens and interests.”

In the report, the White House outlined seven specific goals of the strategy:

  • Reducing U.S. vulnerabilities and updating defenses
  • Disrupting, degrading and dismantling Al Qaeda wherever it takes root
  • Preventing terrorists from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction
  • Eliminating Al Qaeda safehavens
  • Degrading links between Al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents
  • Countering Al Qaeda ideology
  • Depriving Al Qaeda of illicit financing, logistical support, and online communications

In a speech today at the John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security, expanded on the administration’s counterterrorism goals and strategies.

“This is a war — a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power,” Brennan said. “And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself Al Qaeda.”

Brennan said the major four planks of the strategy are: utilizing all available lawful tools and authority, building partnerships and allies abroad, and “building a culture of resilience here at home.” (Mayors Against Illegal Guns group releases terrorist-inspired video)

In many ways, the strategy builds on or continues the strategies of the Bush administration, but it also departs from Bush’s counterterrorism doctrine in several key areas. The new strategy denies the use of torture, which Brennan said doesn’t work.

“It’s because of our commitment to the rule of law and to our national security that we will never waver in our conviction that the United States will be more secure the day that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is ultimately closed,” Brennan said.

Although the administration has struck a triumphant tone — pointing to the terrorist organization’s decimated leadership and operational capacities — Brennan stressed that the U.S. must “continue to pummel Al Qaeda and its ilk,” lest it regain ground.

Brennan also announced that the Obama administration will unveil a program this summer to partner with communities to prevent violent extremism in the United States.