Obama to discuss counterterrorism strategy

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama will discuss his counterterrorism strategy on Thursday, revealing to the American public his plans for unmanned drones and Guantanamo Bay, the White House said on Sunday.

During his speech at the National Defense University in Washington, the president will discuss "our broad counter-terrorism policy, including our military, diplomatic, intelligence and legal efforts," a White House official told AFP.

"He will review the state of the threats we face, particularly as Al-Qaeda core has weakened but new dangers have emerged." The speech will come a little more than a month after the deadly twin bombings in Boston blamed on two ethnic Chechen brothers who lived in the United States for several years.

Mr Obama's address will also discuss his administration's "policy and legal framework" to counter extremist threats, including the use of drones, according to the official, who requested anonymity.

The president significantly expanded the US drone programme from his predecessor George W. Bush, particularly against Al-Qaeda and other violent extremist targets in Yemen and Pakistan.

Washington sees the attacks as an important weapon in the fight against extremists but they are deeply unpopular in Pakistan because of reports of civilian casualties and because they are seen as insensitive to sovereignty.

Pakistan's incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif has warned the strikes present a "challenge to our sovereignty."

Lastly, Mr Obama's speech will review "our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay" as the president frames future US efforts against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the official added.

Late last month, Mr Obama vowed to renew efforts to close the US military prison, where nearly two thirds of the 166 remaining detainees have joined a growing hunger strike that began Feb 6.

Thirty-two of them are being fed through tubes, according to prison authorities.

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