Under fire from GOP, Obama defends response to terror attacks

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama National Security Briefing: No ‘Specific’ Terror Threats Against U.S., but Americans Must Remain Vigilant.

President Obama, seeking to counter pressure for a military escalation in response to terrorist attacks, told news columnists this week that sending significant ground forces back to the Middle East could conceivably result in the deaths of 100 U.S. soldiers every month.

With national security fears on the rise, Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans preparing for the holiday season that there was no “specific and credible” threat facing the United States. “We do not have any specific and credible information about an attack on the homeland,” Obama said, flanked by members of his national security team and vice-president Joe Biden. “That said, we have to be vigilant.” The president’s speech arrived on the heels of growing unrest over the threat of terrorism following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.President Barack Obama said there is no credible evidence of a terrorist threat against Americans now but added that the country must remain vigilant and united. “One of our greatest weapons against terrorism is our own strength and resilience as a people,” Obama said Thursday at the National Counter Terrorism Center. “If you see something suspicious, say something to law enforcement. In a private session at the White House, Obama explained that his refusal to redeploy large numbers of troops to the region was rooted in the grim assumption that the casualties and costs would rival the worst of the Iraq war. Echoing his address to the nation earlier this month, Obama on Wednesday said attacks like those in San Bernardino “stiffens our resolve” in terms of preparedness.

Such a renewed commitment, he said, could require up to $10 billion a month and leave as many as 500 troops injured every month in addition to those killed, a toll he deemed not commensurate to the threat. Resilience, he added, was one of the nation’s “greatest weapons”. “When Americans stand together, nothing can beat us,” Obama said. “We cannot give in to fear or change how we live our lives because that’s what terrorists want, that’s the only leverage they have.” The president spoke before 105 employees of the National Counterterrorism Center and intelligence community following a closed-door briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.

Obama said that if he did send troops to Syria, as some Republicans have urged, he feared a slippery slope that would eventually require similar deployments to other terrorist strongholds like Libya and Yemen, effectively putting him in charge of governing much of the region. The moves come as the president seeks to toughen his message against Isis amid diminishing confidence among the American people over national security. It’s natural,” Obama said. “What the world doesn’t always see are the successes, those terrorist plots that have been prevented, and that’s how it should be,” Obama said. “This work oftentimes demands secrecy, but as Americans, we should not forget how good these patriots are. Malik, who aided her American-born husband Syed Rizwan Farook in the attack that left 14 dead and 21 more injured, is believed by investigators to have been radicalized prior to her arrival in the US.

Over the years, they have taken countless terrorists off the battlefield, they have disrupted plots. they’ve thwarted attacks, they have saved American lives.” Obama’s defense of his approach came as Republican presidential candidates have been branding him as weak and competing in their calls for more robust action to combat the Islamic State extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

Ted Cruz of Texas proposed to “carpet bomb” Islamic State group holdouts despite the risk of civilian casualties, and Ben Carson argued for sending ground troops. He said the U.S. was focused on three areas: going after terrorists overseas; working to prevent terrorists from entering the country; and strengthening ties between law enforcement and local communities and the technology sector to prevent attacks at home. Obama made his comments during a nearly two-hour meeting with the columnists and other opinion writers Tuesday afternoon, about 10 in all, just hours before the debate and when his frustration with Republican criticism was evident. In Obama’s absence, White House officials are concerned by the void that is likely to be filled by his critics and by what they call the overheated claims of Republicans who can afford to be bellicose without the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief. Military experts argue about the ethics and legality of carpet-bombing, but the notion of doing so with precision, as Cruz suggests, is widely seen as paradoxical.

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