The Obama administration’s new counterterrorism strategy is the nation’s first to focus on al- Qaeda’s ability to attack the U.S. “from within,” White House adviser John Brennan said.
Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, said that the U.S. strategy principally addresses al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It “is not designed to combat directly every single terrorist organization in every corner of the world,” he said.
The changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa and U.S. pursuit of terrorist leaders has left al-Qaeda and other extremist groups “on the sidelines, watching history pass them by,” Brennan said today at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Even as it’s been weakened, he said, al-Qaeda is looking to other groups and individuals to take up its quest to strike the U.S.
The strategy is being released after the killing of Osama bin Laden last month, President Barack Obama’s June 22 announcement he will withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the summer of 2012, and civil uprisings in Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region.
Brennan, 55, said the Arab Spring has meant “new challenges and uncertainty in the short term” but “repudiated” al-Qaeda’s philosophy of change through violence.
Obama’s strategy updates a 2006 plan developed by President George W. Bush’s administration that stressed spreading democracy and denying terrorist groups safe havens in failed or rogue nations.
Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, said reworking the nation’s counterterrorism strategy in the post- bin-Laden era is an opportunity to underscore the changes in priorities and conditions since the previous plan and clarify for Americans and foreign nations Obama’s approach going forward.
“It’s important to be able to lay out the direction you want to go and then lay out the tools and means,” he said. The threat from al-Qaeda “is real and some people may be under the impression that, ‘Ding-dong the witch is dead, the threat is gone,’ and that’s simply not the case.”
Cilluffo said there has been a “major uptick in homegrown Jihadi cases” since 2009.
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