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Obama aims to allay concerns about terror-fighting strategy

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    President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Fears of terrorism are hanging over Americas holiday season, and Obama plans a series of events this week aimed at trying to allay concerns about his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group abroad and its sympathizers at home.

WASHINGTON >> Fears of terrorism are hanging over America’s holiday season, so President Barack Obama is planning a series of events this week aimed at trying to allay concerns about his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group abroad and its sympathizers at home.

Obama’s visits to the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center are part of a push to further explain his terrorism-fighting strategy, White House officials said, after a prime-time Oval Office address last Sunday that critics said failed to do much to reassure the public. Another goal is to draw a contrast with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his inflammatory remarks about Muslims. The Obama administration has warned Trump’s rhetoric emboldens extremists looking to pull the U.S. into a war with Islam.

“Terrorists like ISIL are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, using an acronym for the extremist group. “That’s how they stoke fear. That’s how they recruit.”

In the coming week, he said, “we’ll move forward on all fronts.”

The public relations campaign, one week before Christmas, comes as the public is jittery about the specter of terrorism after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California this month and the Paris attacks a few weeks before. Seven in 10 Americans rated the risk of a terrorist attack in the U.S. as at least somewhat high, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. That was a sharp increase from the 5 in 10 who said that in January.

U.S. officials have insisted there are no specific, credible threats to the United States. But the apparent lack of warning before San Bernardino has fueled concerns about whether the U.S. has a handle on potential attacks, especially during high-profile times such as the end-of-year holidays.

Obama, who is scheduled to leave Friday for his annual family vacation in Hawaii, had to interrupt that trip in 2009 when a would-be attacker tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

Obama’s schedule includes a Monday stop at the Pentagon for a rare meeting outside the White House by his National Security Council, followed by a public update from the president about the fight against IS. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama did not intend to announce any major changes in approach.

“If there’s an opportunity for us to intensify efforts behind one aspect of our strategy, then that is something that he wants his team to be prepared to do,” Earnest said.

On Thursday, at the National Counterterrorism Center, which analyzes intelligence at its facility in suburban Virginia, Obama plans to address reporters after a briefing by intelligence and security agencies on threat assessments. Obama receives a similar briefing each year before the holidays.

Concerns about extremism emanating from the Middle East have taken center stage in the presidential race. Obama has tried to use his bully pulpit as a counterpoint to GOP front-runner Trump and his widely condemned proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., and to push back on other politicians insisting on halting resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S.

The White House scheduled a conference call Monday with religious leaders about ways to fight discrimination and promote religious tolerance.

Aiming to put a human face on the issue, Obama is to speak Tuesday at the National Archives Museum, where 31 immigrants from Iraq, Ethiopia, Uganda and 23 other nations will be sworn in as U.S. citizens. Obama planned to use that occasion to reframe the national conversation about immigrants around the country’s founding values of tolerance and freedom.

Despite Obama’s reassurances, Republicans say Obama has failed to grasp the severity of the risk.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said the threat from IS and other terrorist groups presents “a clear and present danger to the United States.”

“We can’t contain this threat. We have to defeat it,” Hurd said in the weekly GOP address. “To defeat ISIS, we have to be in this for the long haul.”


AP News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson contributed to this report.


Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at His work can be found at

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    • Kekelaward, disagree with your post that it’s a religious divide, for the divide is a poor v. rich, or have and have not divide. In 1942, UC Berkley Professor submitted a report called ‘Tyron’s Rat Experience’. This has been happening to the human race for hundred’s of years and the gap between the have and have not’s is at a point it cannot be bridged. Let’s just look at technology. 20% of the population understand and work with it, the other 80% are left as nave not’s and are falling further behind. Religion is just an excuse, but a very critical part of the solution. President Obama had the opportunity to close the gap, but over 7 years, he made it worst. For example, the situation of White v. Black, etc.

  • “Terrorists like ISIL are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background,”, now I wonder who’s play book the terrorist got that idea from?

  • I went through this article twice and I still don’t know what the “strategy” is. Obama keeps talking about his “strategy” but I have yet to hear what it is exactly. And I haven’t seen any evidence of ISIL/ISIS trying to divide anyone, they just want to kill us – it’s Obama that is trying to divide us.

  • He can plan a vacation yet doesn’t have time to visit San Bernardino to offer condolences to the victims of an Islamic terrorist attack. Way to go, Barry. This too will be part of your tainted legacy.


  • The CIA has estimated that on 9/11 there were roughly 100 people in al-Qaeda. After the US spent several trillion dollars on unfunded wars of choice based on bogus “intelligence,” killing more than twice as many Americans as died in not only 9/11 but in all terrorism attacks in America before and since, al-Qaeda now has about 30,000 and ISIS has matched them and more. Bin Laden’s strategy was to provoke the US into paroxysms of self destruction. The strategy of Bush and the chicken hawks was to fall for Bin Laden’s trap, not only creating ISIS but also leaving behind an enormous deficit, a broken military, a Middle East de-stabilized for generations, and a country in which Bush’s political party is flocking to support the rise of a political novice and buffoon who seems to be a combination of Mussolini, Don Rickles and George Wallace. How did that strategy work?

  • A rhetorical Presidents whose strategy is to befuddle the population that all is well and that ISIL is contained and on the run. This strategy has embolden the home-grown terrorist to act knowing that We are unprepared. San Bernardino is just the tip of the iceberg. Even the FBI is spinning its wheel grasping for whatever source they can pursue to get a handle on when a where the next attack is going to occur. Since we really do not have a cogent tactical strategy to fight the terrorist on their home ground, they continue to enlist more candidates to their cause. Until decisive and devastating strikes are made against them, they will continue to grow in manpower, abroad and within our borders. Currently our war planes return to their base most of the times with bomb load intact. Our current “rules of engagement” hamper our effort to destroy them. Strategic and saturation bombing ended the wars in Europe and the Pacific. Collateral damage is part of the war effort. A commander-in-chief has to make tough choices. Survival is a reality!

  • If Republicans think that the Obama Administrations strategy is so bad, why are they rushing to support a candidate who is the best recruiter for ISIS could hope for? Here’s Ted Koppel’s description of Republicans’ dangerous infatuation with sounding tough: “The irony is they think they’re being tough on ISIS. And Trump thinks he is being tough on ISIS… Donald Trump is in effect the recruiter-in-chief for ISIS. ISIS wants nothing more right now than to have the world divided into Judeo-Christian on one side, and the Islamic world on the other. That’s exactly what Trump is doing for them. I think it’s time we started thinking about what ISIS wants and then not doing it.”

    • Ted Koppel needs to wake up. The world already is divided into Judeo-Christian and other religions on one side and the Islamic world on the other. It has been that way since long before Trump became a candidate for president. ISIS had no problem recruiting Muslims before Trump came along so stop blaming him.

      • Do the following people also need to “wake up”?

        Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a retired Air Force Reserves colonel and one of the GOP’s leading voices on national security issues in Congress: “If you want to make America great again, reject this (Trump’s Muslim ban) without any doubt or hesitation. It puts our troops and diplomats at risk over seas. I just got back from Iraq a week ago Monday, and they were worried about his behavior and statements even before this. He’s putting people at risk. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan 36 times. Remember when the guy in Florida was threatening to burn the Quran? General Petraeus was really worried about this. And the enemy takes statements like this and they use it against us. This helps the enemy. It puts our soldiers and diplomats at risk, it undermines the war effort, and it’s ruining the Republican party…He is helping the enemy of this nation. He is empowering radical Islam.”

        Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson: “As the Secretary of Homeland Security, I have avoided responding to the political season and what candidates have said running for president. However, I believe that it’s the responsibility of those of us in national security and homeland security when a leading candidate for office proposes something that is irresponsible, probably illegal, unconstitutional, and contrary to international law, un-American, and will actually hurt our efforts at homeland security and national security, we have to speak out.”

        White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes: “Muslim Americans have made extraordinary contributions to our country, but it’s also contrary to our security. The fact of the matter is ISIL wants to frame this as a war between the United States and Islam. And if we look like we’re applying religious tests who comes into this country, we’re sending a message that essentially we’re embracing that frame. And that is going to make it very difficult to partner with Muslim communities here in the United States and around the world to prevent this scourge of radicalization that we need to be focused on. We should be making it harder for ISIL to portray this as a war between the United States and Islam, not easier.”

        Rear Adm. John Kirby (Pentagon press secretary and spokesman for former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen): “I’m not going to get up here and parse the comments by people running for office, but what we have said repeatedly, separate and distinct from this, is that a group like ISIL — and we saw this with Al Qaida years ago — they certainly feed on fear. And when we’re afraid, and when we act out of fear or contempt, that emboldens their narrative and their message, this idea of this grievance against the West. There’s no excuse, none, for violence, let me make that very clear. Terrorism has no justification or rationale. But we have seen in the past, when terrorist groups try to use these — those kinds of divisive comments and rhetoric to fuel their own self-delusional narrative about why they are what they, and who they are and what they — with the ideology that they try to propagate. So I can’t predict the degree to which those comments will or will not incite recruitment and further activity by ISIL, but clearly as the secretary said, it is counterproductive and it is not helpful.”

      • Hitler had no problem recruiting before they came along, but did that make it OK for American Nazi-sympathizers like Henry Ford and Charles Lindberg to support him?

    • bsdetection , I can always rely on you to provide another side to any viewpoint. Even if I don’t agree with it, it’s always insightful. But Ted Koppel? Koppel is just another “armchair expert” though granted, he is a few (quite a few, actually) notches above O’Reilly, Carlson and Hannity. “…recruiter-in-chief for ISIS. ” Please. ISIS has been recruiting long before Trump started his campaign.

      • Koppel is just re-phrasing what many experts have stated. If you don’t accept his analysis, here’s another viewpoint by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook: “There are Muslims serving patriotically in the U.S. military today as there are people of many faiths. Without wading into politics, we are partnering right now with Muslim nations. We have troops serving who follow the Muslim faith. Anything that tries to bolster, if you will, the ISIL narrative that the United States is somehow at war with Islam is contrary to our values and contrary to our national security.”

        • Nah, he’s just another mouthpiece for the libs. His history includes stints at Bloomberg TV, MSNBC and NBC. I don’t trust any of the tools on the left or right. But thank you. At least you offer sources of info.

        • “Aiming to put a human face on the issue, Obama is to speak Tuesday at the National Archives Museum, where 31 immigrants from Iraq, Ethiopia, Uganda and 23 other nations will be sworn in as U.S. citizens”. – Obama just doesn’t get it, he’s putting american lives at risk by allowing these people to immigrate to the US. Anyone coming from a country that observes and believes in sharia law does not belong in a free society.As has already happened in Europe, they will not integrate well into society. They will likely form their own little enclaves and fester like a disease slowly killing it’s host. He seems overly worried about offending Muslims when they represent but a small fraction of the US population. We should be deporting non citizen Muslims, not granting them citizenship. The sooner Obama leaves office, the better off the country will be. At this point, anyone running for President would be better than him.

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