President Barack Obama ramps up bid to explain his terror-fighting strategy

December 14, 2015 5:38 pm

like ISIL are trying to divide along lines of religion and
background,” Barack Obama said in his weekly address. Photo / AP

Working to ease public jitters ahead of the holidays, President
Barack Obama will use visits to the Pentagon and the National
Counterterrorism Center this week to try to explain his strategy for
stopping the Islamic State group abroad and its sympathizers at home.
high-profile visits to agencies charged with keeping the U.S. safe
follow an Oval Office address last Sunday that aimed to reassure the
public but that critics said failed to do the job. Obama is also hoping
to draw a contrast with Donald Trump and his inflammatory remarks about
Muslims, which Obama’s administration has warned 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 in his weekly address, using an acronym for the extremist
group. “That’s how they stoke fear. That’s how they recruit.”
This 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 . 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 leaves
Friday for his annual vacation in Hawaii, had to interrupt that trip in
2009 when a would-be attacker tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
will open the weeklong drive on Monday by traveling to 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. Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate,
planned a speech in Minnesota on Tuesday to present a plan for
protecting the U.S. homeland from homegrown terrorism and other threats.
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. 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 Syrian
refugees 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 said the threat from IS and other terrorist groups
presents “a clear and present danger to the United States.”
can’t contain this threat. We have to defeat it,” Hurd said in the
weekly Republican address. “To defeat ISIS, we have to be in this for
the long haul.”

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