President Donald Trump has signed off on a new national counterterrorism strategy, articulating his administration’s vision for how the US should confront terrorist threats at home and abroad.
The new strategy document offers a broad strokes blueprint for how the Trump administration will and already has approached the threat of terrorism, from targeting terrorists at their source to beefing up efforts domestically to tackle the threat of homegrown terrorism.
In unveiling the strategy on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton described the new strategy as a sharp departure from President Barack Obama’s approach to confronting terrorism, emphasizing the Trump administration’s recognition of the threat as one rooted in radical Islamist ideology.
“Radical Islamist terrorist groups still represent the preeminent threat to the United States,” Bolton said. “We recognize that there is a terrorist ideology that we’re confronting. And I think it’s long been the President’s view that without recognizing that we’re in an ideological struggle, that we can’t properly address the terrorist threat.”
The strategy document does not direct resources or call for additional financing, rather laying out the Trump administration’s broad counterterrorism framework. Bolton said the strategy involves “isolating” terrorist groups from their networks of financial support, bolstering US allies’ counterterrorism capabilities and improving US infrastructure and preparedness, among other points.
The counterterrorism strategy document is the first of its kind since Obama unveiled his counterterrorism strategy in 2011 and Bolton stressed the difference in the Trump administration’s approach.
He scoffed at a question about whether the new strategy addressed the impact of climate change on global insecurity and terrorism — a link Obama addressed — and said he did not believe “climate change is a cause of international terrorism.” He welcomed a question about Obama’s comment that the US cannot be in a perpetual war against terrorism with an emphatic “thank you.”
“It is a departure. And the reason is that it’s not simply a unilateral decision by the United States to end this ideological war. It’s not enough that we find it inconvenient that we’re still under attack. The fact is the radical Islamic threat that we face is a form of ideology,” Bolton said.
Bolton said the “proliferation of ISIS” demands a new approach to counterterrorism and the global threat of terrorism is “more complex and diffuse than ever.”
The strategy document’s executive summary makes clear the Trump administration remains on a war footing in combating terrorism, declaring “we remain a nation at war.”
In a statement trumpeting the new strategy, Trump touted the successes of his presidency thus far in confronting terrorist groups and financiers of terrorism, from the near-decimation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria to his withdrawal from the Iran deal, which he said “provided a windfall for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies.”
Of the new strategy, the President said in a statement: “It outlines the approach of the United States to countering the increasingly complex and evolving terrorist threats and represents the nation’s first fully articulated counterterrorism strategy since 2011.
“It provides the strategic guidance needed to protect the United States against all terrorist threats, while simultaneously fostering the agility to anticipate, prevent and respond to new threats,” he said.
The counterterrorism strategy focuses overwhelmingly on the fight against “radical Islamist terrorism,” but does mention the rise in threats from non-Islamist terrorists.
The document notes that the US also faces terrorism motived “by other forms of violent extremism, such as racially motivated extremism, animal rights extremism, environmental extremism, sovereign citizen extremism and militia extremism” and notes those forms of “domestic terrorism in the United States is on the rise.”
The counterterrorism strategy calls for investigating and integrating information about “domestic terrorists not motivated by radical Islamist ideologies and their overseas counterparts.”