BARACK Obama is highlighting the danger posed by “homegrown terrorism” for the first time in a new national security strategy intended to prepare the US for long-term combat against al-Qa’ida and other forms of violent extremism.
The new doctrine unveiled by the US President today reflects his administration’s view that the terrorist threat has entered a new phase.
In a preview of the strategy, Mr Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser said yesterday the White House “explicitly recognised” the threat posed by an increasing number of individuals radicalised at home.
John Brennan, Mr Obama’s assistant on homeland security and counter-terrorism, said the US needed to guard against people – including US citizens – who were inspired by al-Qa’ida’s ideology and took matters into their own hands or travelled to extremist safe havens for training.
Prominent in the White House’s revised thinking are examples such as last year’s massacre at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, and this month’s attempted bombing in New York’s busy Times Square.
The new emphasis on homegrown terrorism is contained in a strategy document released by the White House today that also makes a deliberate break with the Bush administration.
As foreshadowed by Mr Obama in a weekend speech at the West Point military academy, the President has chosen to shun unilateralism, instead advocating US leadership in a new international order based on partnerships with allies new and old.
Since 1986, each president has been required by congress to set out a national security strategy based on threats faced by the US.
George W. Bush supported alliances to defeat global terrorism, but relations became strained with much of Europe over the former president’s endorsement of pre-emptive war and what he -called “a distinctly American internationalism”.
Mr Obama is pursuing as “the only path” a theme of co-operation that he expounded in speeches last year to the UN in New York and to Islamic countries in Cairo.
Outlining the revised doctrine at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Mr Brennan said US efforts to disrupt al-Qa’ida had made it harder for the terrorist group to recruit and train, forcing a shift away from sophisticated attacks.
“They are seeking foot soldiers who might slip past our defences by defying the traditional profile of a terrorist,” he said.
He also signalled some name changes for the enemy after the Bush years.
“Our enemy is not ‘terrorism’ because terrorism is but a tactic,” he said. “Our enemy is not ‘terror’ because terror is a state of mind and as Americans we refuse to live in a state of fear.”
Mr Brennan said the Obama administration refused to describe its enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad was a holy struggle and a legitimate tenet of Islam based on purifying one’s community. “There is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.”
The Obama strategy seeks to protect Americans through a combination of military and civilian effort. Mr Obama wants to deny al-Qa’ida and its supporters a safe haven, and secure the world’s most dangerous weapons, especially nuclear arms.
Mr Brennan said the White House would seek positive partnerships with Muslim countries. It would also be mandatory to eliminate terrorist targets with more precision. According to Mr Brennan, causing civilian casualties could “inflame local populations and create far more problems – a tactical success but a strategic failure”.