White House releases updated National Strategy for Counterterrorism

On Tuesday, the White House released an updated National Strategy for Counterterrorism that looks to build on previous strategies while becoming more focused and specific about its goals.

The main focus of the strategy is the collection of groups and individuals who comprise al-Qaeda, its affiliates and its adherents. While the United States deliberately uses the word “war” to describe the campaign against al-Qaeda, the strategy clearly states that the war is not against the tactic of terrorism or the religion of Islam, just the specific organization of al-Qaeda.

The strategy is structured with overarching goals and areas of focus. In addition, it states that the U.S. is committed to adhering to U.S. core values like respect for human rights, building security partnerships, applying counterterrorism tools and capabilities appropriately by balancing near and long-term considerations, and building a culture of resilience by building the essential components of resilience.

The goals of the strategy including protecting the American people, homeland, and American interests; disrupting, degrading, dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda; preventing terrorist development, acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction; eliminating safe havens; building enduring counterterrorism partnerships and capabilities; degrading links between al-Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents; countering al-Qaeda ideology and its resonance; diminishing the specific drivers of violence the organization exploits; and depriving terrorists of their fighting means.   

The areas of focus include the homeland, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Europe, Iraq, Maghreb and Sahel, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.

“Though there are many potential threats to our national security, it is the terrorist threat from al-Qaeda that has loomed largest in the decade since September 11, 2001,” President Barack Obama wrote in the preamble to the strategy, “And yet today, we can say with growing confidence – and with certainty about the outcome – that we have put al-Qaeda on the path to defeat. With an unrelenting focus on the task at hand, and mindful of the challenges still ahead, we will not rest until that job is done.”