The Trump administration on Thursday rolled out what it billed as a “robust” counter-terrorism strategy, saying that it differs from the previous administration’s by focusing on “terrorist ideology.”
“We recognize that there is a terrorist ideology that we’re confronting,” national security adviser John Bolton said.
“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. I think in that sense this is much broader than strategies in the previous administration.”
Bolton unveiled the strategy in a briefing with reporters, saying it is meant to address the “increasingly complex and evolving terrorist threat” to the United States.
“We look at all of the threatening ideologies that we facing, including not just Sunni ideologies, but the Islamic Revolution of 1979 emanating from Iran,” Bolton said.
The strategy marks the first blueprint to defeating international terrorist groups and homegrown threats since the approach rolled out by the Obama administration in 2011. That strategy focused on al Qaeda and its ability to inspire attacks inside the United States.
President Trump said the new approach “will help protect our great Nation, enhance our national security, and guide our continued effort to defeat terrorists and terrorist organizations that threaten the United States.”
The strategy focuses on pursuing terrorists to their source, isolating them from their support systems, and integrating and modernizing tools to combat terrorism. It also calls for strong borders and securing ports of entry, increased emphasis on “non-kinetic means” of defeating terrorism and the use of traditional military power.
Bolton framed the fight as an ideological war, and he cited Jordan’s King Abdullah, who described terrorism as a “civil war” within Islam.
“The fact is the radical Islamic threat that we face is a form of ideology,” Bolton said. “This should not be anything new to anybody.”
Bolton argued that the administration has already made gains against terrorist groups and taken more aggressive action than the Obama administration.
“We have accelerated efforts to defeat terrorist who pose significant threats to the United States,” Bolton said. “The president has already moved out aggressively.”
Because the document is a strategy, Bolton said, it does not list specific resources needed. But it will inform the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, he added.
Bolton said the strategy has been in the works since the start of the Trump administration, undergoing revisions in the 21 months before Thursday’s release. It follows other strategies rolled out by the White House, including a national policy on cybersecurity unveiled in September.
“The timing is, we finally got it done and it was important to announce it as soon as possible,” Bolton said.