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US Counterterrorism Strategy Focuses on Domestic Threats

John Brennan (file photo)
John Brennan (file photo)

The Obama administration on Wednesday laid out its new national counterterrorism strategy and the president's top adviser praised international partners, including Pakistan, for aiding the fight against terrorism. He said the new plan puts increased focus on security inside U.S. borders.

U.S. President Barack Obama set the stage for unveiling a new national strategy for counterterrorism by praising the work of U.S. military forces abroad.

“What they have been able to do is severely cripple al-Qaida’s capacities.// They are having a difficult time operating and we are going to keep the pressure on,” he said.

The president's White House press conference was his first in months, and came one week after Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Later, his top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, spoke at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies about the administration's new counterterrorism strategy.

“This is the first counterterrorism strategy that focuses on the ability of al-Qaida and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack us from within. Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts,” Brennan said.

Terrorists have already struck America at home. A Pakistani-born American attempted to bomb New York’s Times Square in May 2010, aided by the Pakistani Taliban. And the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009 is blamed on a U.S. Army psychiatrist allegedly inspired by a radical cleric in Yemen.

Brennan said Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain a concern, but the new strategy’s focus is the utter destruction of al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. The U.S. and its allies will need to be precise, he said:

“Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us,” Brennan said.

U.S. officials say the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos in May dealt a strong blow to al-Qaida’s leadership, and that anti-government demonstrations sweeping the Middle East have left al-Qaida on the sidelines.