President Barack Obama said Thursday that it is time for the United States to evolve its post-9/11 counterterrorism policy. He said the threat that the nation faces hasn't disappeared, but the U.S. can't afford to constantly be at war.
In his speech at the National Defense University, Obama said the United States must adapt its fight against al-Qaida because the country can't conduct a "boundless" war on terror. "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue," Obama said. "But this war, like all wars, must end. That's what history advises. It's what our democracy demands."
Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. But what we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger to us, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all the while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend.
Republicans said the president is mistaken to conclude that the war on terror is over, and the United States cannot afford to shift its national security strategy so drastically. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said the president's new policy is a move away from successful counterterrorism activities and "will be viewed by terrorists as a victory." Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona also questioned the viability of ending the global war on terror:
No American wants the fight against terrorists to become a perpetual war. But the fact is, this fight will endure long beyond President Obama's term of office. Future commanders in chief will need all of our tools of national power, both civilian and military, to protect our country against the evolving threat posed by al-Qaida and its associated forces.
McCain said he does agree with Obama's call to close Guantanamo Bay, a campaign promise on which the president has yet to deliver. The senator said Obama must work with Congress to determine the legal framework of transferring detainees away from the prison so it can be shuttered.
Obama also announced new restrictions on the administration's use of drones for targeted killings abroad and said the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed after 9/11, must be replaced.
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