President Barack Obama's senior counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, says the United States is taking a new and broader approach to defeat al-Qaida and other violent extremists worldwide. At the same time, Brennan made clear on Thursday that Mr. Obama no longer wants the United States and all of its foreign policy goals to be defined by the "war on terror."
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, President Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser laid out the administration's approach. Brennan defended President Obama against critics who argue his administration is "soft on terror," saying the president knows that al-Qaida terrorists remain committed to carrying out a deadly attack on U.S. soil.
"President Obama has articulated a clear policy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its allies. That is our mission," Brennan said. "And the president described it in no uncertain terms in his inaugural [address] when he said, 'Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.' And to win this war against al-Qaida, the administration continues to be unrelenting, using every tool in its toolbox and every arrow in its quiver," he continued.
Brennan promised that the United States will keep up the pressure on terrorist havens worldwide, including those near the Afghan-Pakistani border. But he stressed the United States must combine its military might that has damaged al-Qaida during the past several years with other tools, such as diplomacy and development aid, as well as expand human intelligence to defeat an adaptable enemy.
In what he called a departure from the Bush administration, Brennan said President Obama strongly believes that the United States can no longer let the "war on terror" dictate the nation's international agenda.
"The fight against terrorists and violent extremists has been returned to its right and proper place -- no longer defining, indeed, distorting, our entire national security and foreign policy, but rather serving as a vital part of those larger policies," said Brennan. "President Obama has made it clear that the United States will not be defined simply by what we are against, but by what we are for -- the opportunity, liberties, prosperity and common aspirations we share with the rest of the world," he continued.
Brennan said the approach can be seen in President Obama's personal diplomacy, especially in his speech to the Muslim community in Cairo this year. He said the president is determined to correct the false perception that the United States is at war with Islam, which, he said, is exactly what terrorist leader Osama bin Laden intended.
Brennan said the truth is that the United States is at war with al-Qaida and its violent, extremist allies.
"As many have noted, the President does not describe this as a "war on terrorism." That is because 'terrorism' is but a tactic -- a means to an end, which in al-Qaida's case is global domination by an Islamic caliphate. Confusing ends and means is dangerous because by focusing on the tactic, we risk floundering among the terrorist trees, while missing the growth of the extremist forest," he noted.
Brennan said the Obama administration will also focus on factors that contribute to terrorism, such as poverty, and a lack of education and other opportunities for young people in many developing areas of the world.