The Obama administration has mapped out a dual approach to defeating terrorism, fusing U.S. military strikes against insurgents with a commitment to pump economic development, political aid and training into countries that are considered safe havens for militant groups.
John Brennan, a top White House adviser, said Thursday that the U.S. must harness its economic power to help nations increase their security and dissuade their citizens from turning to violence. He cited Somalia as an example.
"The most effective long-term strategy for safeguarding the American people is one that promotes a future where a young man or woman never even considers joining an extremist group in the first place; where they reject out of hand the idea of picking up that gun or strapping on that suicide vest," said Brennan, President Barack Obama's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.
Brennan's speech covered familiar ground, echoing calls by other senior leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for the U.S. government to use more "soft power" to defeat terrorism. Since November 2007, Gates has been arguing that the military alone cannot solve the problem.
But Brennan's remarks Thursday put greater detail and emphasis on a program that focuses on the near-term challenge of fighting al Qaeda, and the longer-term effort to counter violent extremism.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brennan offered no details on how much the cash-strapped administration will be willing to pour into known terror havens, which range from war-wracked Afghanistan to poverty-stricken Somalia and Yemen. Those nations have pleaded for millions more dollars in financial aid, along with funds for trucks, helicopters, and other equipment.
His comments underscored assertions - by Obama and other Cabinet members - that winning the war of words is a key element to defeating terrorism. Early on, Obama dropped the use of the oft-heard Bush administration catch phrase "global war on terror," saying that the U.S, must be careful not to suggest that it is at war with Muslims. And in June Obama delivered a much-anticipated speech in Cairo, reaching out to the Muslim world.
On Thursday, Brennan also argued that the term "global war" could imply that the U.S. is at war with the rest of the world, and it reinforces the idea that al Qaeda is more powerful and far-reaching than it is.
Outlining five key elements of the new approach, Brennan said the U.S. will meld its fight against terrorists into a broader engagement with countries around the world, not just those gripped by extremists.
In addition to efforts to speak more carefully about terrorism, he said there will be a greater understanding that while poverty does not cause violence, people who have no hope for a job are often more susceptible to extremist ideologies.
Also, Brennan said the U.S. must help other countries bolster their security and governance in order to meet the needs of their people. And finally the White House will use all elements of American power to meet those goals, he said.
Pointing to Somalia, which has become a growing base for al Qaeda terrorists compounded by tribal warfare and piracy, Brennan said the U.S. needs a more comprehensive policy for the Horn of Africa.
Already, he said, U.S. officials are sharing intelligence with nations in East Africa and the Trans-Sahel region (on the southern fringe of the Sahara) and building their security forces.
But there also must be a broader strategy to give Somalis an alternative to joining al-Shabab, which has ties to al Qaeda, he said.
In other comments, Brennan said that fulfilling the president's promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is the one of the "most challenging issues" that the administration is dealing with, reports CBS News' Rob Hendin.
He said the administration is "doing everything possible" to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by next January, as promised by Obama.
He stopped short of saying the White House will meet that goal, adding that Congress "can either help or hinder our efforts."
Congress has blocked all funding for the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees into the United States for the 2009 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. There has been no agreement yet on funding in the 2010 fiscal year budget.
Congress also passed a law in June that would allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to the U.S. for prosecution only after lawmakers have had two months to read a White House report on how it plans to shut the facility and disperse the inmates.