US President Barack Obama has said the United States “must never hesitate to act when necessary”, as he acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan is still tough and threat from terrorists, ISIL in particular has metastasized in other parts of Middle East.
“I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally, when necessary, against any eminent threats to our people,” Obama said yesterday in a speech on his administration’s approach to counter terrorism, in Tampa, Florida.
“I’ve also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world or resolve their internal conflicts, particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgents,” he said.
“Instead, it’s been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like Al-Qaeda and ISIL, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight.
And we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security,” he asserted.
Reflecting on his successful counter-terrorism policies, Obama said plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan had been consistently disrupted.
“Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama bin Laden is dead,” he said.
“And importantly, we build a counter-terrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network in South Asia that might threaten the United States of America. That was because of the work of our outstanding service members,” he added.
Obama said instead of being in the lead against Taliban, Americans are now supporting 320,000 Afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counter-terrorism efforts.
“I don’t wanna paint too rosy a picture. The situation in Afghanistan is still tough. War has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban in that country,” he said.
“But what we can do, is deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future,” he said.
Of course the terrorist threat was never restricted to south Asia or to Afghanistan or Pakistan, he said.
“Even as al Qaeda’s been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threat from terrorists, metastasized in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
And most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency,” said the US President.
Obama said there’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued US Troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing.
“And as a practical matter, this was not an option. By 2011, Iraqis wanted our military presence to end, and they were unwilling to sign a new status of forces agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in Iraq”, he said.
“In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise.
“The government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits and a hallowing out of Iraq security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014,” he said.
“In fact, American troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remain on bases, or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict against the will of Iraq’s elected government, or Iraq’s local populations,” said the US President.
“But circumstances changed. When ISIL made substantial gains, first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help and in shaping our response, we refuse to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organisation that became ISIL in the first place,” he said.
Obama said instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, the US has built a network of partners.
“Working with European allies, who suffered terrible attacks, we’ve strengthened intelligence sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL.
We’ve worked with our tech sector to support efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill. A recent study shows that ISIL’s propaganda has been cut in half,” he said.
“We’ve launched a global engagement centre to counter voices that are promoting ISIL’s perversion of Islam and we’re working closely with Muslim majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia,” Obama said.