Obama to curtail drones in focused war on terror

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington: Making a shift from a boundless “global war on terror”, US President Barack Obama Thursday announced a new counter-terrorism policy narrowing the use of drones that has put it at odds with key allies like Pakistan.

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“Today, the core of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us,” Obama said at the National Defence University.

Obama also reiterated the pledge he made last month to renew his efforts to persuade Congress to agree to close the Guantanamo detention site in Cuba where 110 terrorist suspects are being held.

Obama has been under pressure to curb the drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists with such strikes by unpiloted aircraft in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen reported to be alienating people and inadvertently creating support for Islamic jihadists.

While Al Qaeda terror network in the Afghan and Pakistan region has been weakened, new dangers have emerged as the US winds down operations in Afghanistan after more than a decade of war triggered by the 9/11 attacks, Obama said.

“Threats that have emerged come from Al Qaeda affiliates, localised extremist groups and homegrown terrorists, like the two men suspected of attacking the Boston Marathon last,” he said.

“We face a real threat from radicalised individuals here in the United States.”

“Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a plane flying into a building in Texas, or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City – America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time,” Obama said.

“Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless “global war on terror” – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” he said making the case for a more focused approach.

“In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries,” he said.

“Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])