Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Trump counterterror plan calls for allies to do more

CHANGING LANDSCAPE:A draft says that since the last US counterterrorism strategy was released in 2011 by Obama, threats have ‘diversified in size, scope and complexity’

Reuters, WASHINGTON

A draft of US President Donald Trump’s new counterterrorism strategy demands that US allies shoulder more of the burden in combating Muslim militants, while acknowledging that the threat of terrorism will never be totally eliminated.

The 11-page draft, seen on Friday by reporters, said the US should avoid costly, “open-ended” military commitments.

“We need to intensify operations against global jihadist groups while also reducing the costs of American ‘blood and treasure’ in pursuit of our counterterrorism goals,” reads the document, which is expected to be released in coming months.

“We will seek to avoid costly, large-scale US military interventions to achieve counterterrorism objectives and will increasingly look to partners to share the responsibility for countering terrorist groups,” it says.

However, it acknowledges that terrorism “cannot be defeated with any sort of finality.”

“As part of its overall approach, the administration is taking a fresh look at the entire US national security strategy, to include the counterterrorism mission — which is especially important since no such strategy has been produced publicly since 2011,” US National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said.

The process is aimed at ensuring “the new strategy is directed against the preeminent terrorist threats to our nation, our citizens, our interests overseas and allies,” Anton said. “Moreover, this new strategy will highlight achievable and realistic goals, and guiding principles.”

The draft strategy paper, which officials said was still being fine-tuned at the White House, describes the threat from Muslim militant groups in stark tones.

It remains to be seen how Trump can square his goal of avoiding military interventions with ongoing conflicts involving US troops in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

Rather than scale back US commitments, he has so far largely adhered to plans of the administration of former US president Barack Obama to intensify military operations against militant groups and granted the Pentagon greater authority to strike them in places like Yemen and Somalia.

Trump might soon reverse years of drawdowns in Afghanistan. His administration is considering boosting by between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers the 8,400-strong US contingent helping Afghan forces fight a resurgent Taliban, current and former US officials have said.

Since Obama released the last US counterterrorism strategy in 2011 before the emergence of the Islamic State, the threat has “diversified in size, scope and complexity from what we faced just a few years ago,” the draft strategy document says.

In addition to the Islamic State, the US and its allies are endangered by a reconstituted al-Qaeda, groups such as the Haqqani network and Hezbollah, as well as from homegrown extremists radicalized online, it says.

The draft’s first guiding principle is that the US “will always act to disrupt, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against our nation, our citizens, our interests overseas and our allies. This includes taking direct and unilateral action, if necessary.”

Yet, it provides few details on how the US — which has led global counterterrorism efforts since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — can achieve those goals by passing more of the burden to other countries, many of which lack the requisite military and intelligence capabilities.

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