US seeks to avoid costly, large-scale anti-terror missions

WASHINGTON • A draft of President Donald Trump's new counter-terrorism strategy demands that US allies shoulder more of the burden in fighting Islamist militants, while acknowledging that the threat of terrorism will never be totally eliminated.

The 11-page draft, seen on Friday by Reuters, said the US should avoid costly, "open-ended" military commitments.

"We need to intensify operations against global terror groups while also reducing the costs of American 'blood and treasure' in pursuit of our counter-terrorism goals," stated the document, which is expected to be released in the coming months.

"We will seek to avoid costly, large-scale US military interventions to achieve counter-terrorism objectives and will increasingly look to partners to share the responsibility for countering terrorist groups," it added. However, it acknowledged that terrorism "cannot be defeated with any sort of finality".

Mr Michael Anton, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: "As part of its overall approach, the administration is taking a fresh look at the entire US national security strategy, to include the counter-terrorism mission - which is especially important since no such strategy has been produced publicly since 2011."

Combating Islamist extremism was a major issue for Mr Trump during last year's presidential campaign. The draft strategy paper, which officials said was still being fine-tuned at the White House, describes the threat from Islamist militant groups in stark tones.

Since former president Barack Obama released the last counter-terrorism strategy in 2011 before the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the threat has "diversified in size, scope and complexity from what we faced just a few years ago", the draft strategy said.

The US and its allies are also endangered by home-grown extremists radicalised online, it said.

Professor Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University's Centre for Security Studies and who reviewed the document at Reuters' request, said the draft strategy "paints - and I think accurately - a more dire picture" of the threat than the Obama document, which had a "triumphalist" tone following Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death in 2011.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'US seeks to avoid costly, large-scale anti-terror missions'. Print Edition | Subscribe