John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, presented President Obama’s Counterterrorism Strategy in a speech entitled “Ensuring al-Qa’ida’s Demise” at SAIS on Wednesday, June 29.”
This John Hopkins SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies) lecture has several interesting points, including:
1) John McLaughlin’s introductory remarks on the evolution of Al-Qaeda from 9/11 to the death of Osama Bin Laden, as well as an overview of John Brennan’s education and activities with the CIA and the NCTC.
2) The National Strategy for Counterterrorism is only a part of the National Security Strategy. C0unterterrorism does not exclusively dictate America’s foreign policy, but works with the political, social, and economic objectives of President Obama’s foreign policy.
3) This National Strategy for Counterterrorism included Arab Spring in its geopolitical calculus for the Middle East / North Africa region, as an opportunity for peaceful democratic change.
4) John Brennan singled out Iran and Syria as state sponsors of terror, namely to providing material to Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel.
5) The major threat to the U.S. is Al-Qaeda (central command), its affiliates (regional cells), and its adherents (domestic lone wolf terrorism).
6) John Brennan identified the American Homeland as a front in counterterrorism efforts against Al-Qaeda.
7) Brennan called the notion of an Al-Qaeda established caliphate as “absurd” and “a feckless delusion which is never going to happen.”
8) The White House Counterterrorism Adviser noted Al-Qaeda’s notion of a clash of civilizations and object of draining the funds of the United States – which the U.S. could counter through surgical strikes.
9) “This is a war… we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself Al-Qaeda.”
10) The primary objective of destroying Al-Qaeda means the destruction of AQ Central on the Afghanistan-Pakistani border.
11) Then the U.S. can defeat regional periphery, such as Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and the Maghreb.
12) Al-Qaeda regional cells tend to utilize local and legitimate grievances against central governments for its own objectives.
13) President Obama’s approach to counterterrorism is pragmatic and not ideological – he does what works.
14) The National Strategy for Counterterrorism is inherently an interagency strategy.
15) John Brennan sought to incorporate the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, especially in regards to WMDs, bio-terrorism, and aircraft safety.
16) Key principals of the strategy include using all tools to counter terror, working with international partners, using the right tool at the right place, and upholding American values.
17) The key to homeland security is resiliency, especially towards critical infrastructure and the cyber domain.
18) John Brennan claimed Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIP) “don’t work.”
See John McLaughlin’s SAIS profile at: http://www.sais-jhu.edu/john-mclaughlin
See John Brennan’s CIA profile at: https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html
See the National Strategy for Counterterrorism at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf
See the Fact Sheet on the National Strategy for Counterterrorism: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/29/fact-sheet-national-strategy-counterterrorism
See the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism webpage at: http://www.dhs.gov/topic/countering-violent-extremism