US shifts to leaner antiterror strategy

By Kimberly Dozier
Associated Press / June 30, 2011

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WASHINGTON — The United States will push ahead with more targeted drone strikes and special operations raids and fewer costly land battles such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan in the continuing war against Al Qaeda, according to a new national counterterrorism strategy unveiled yesterday.

The document is a purposeful departure from the George W. Bush administration’s global war on terror. The worldwide hunt for terrorists that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks focused first on Afghanistan. Fewer than 100 Al Qaeda members are still active there, US officials have said.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the reworked doctrine acknowledges the growing threat of terrorism at home, including Al Qaeda attempts to recruit and attack inside the United States.

Brennan told a Washington audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that more resources would be spent on the fight at home to spot would-be militants and their recruiters. Overseas, the emphasis would be on precise, small-scale attacks.

The operations Brennan describes are almost solely the province of the intelligence and military special operations agencies, especially the CIA and elite forces of the Joint Special Operations Command that worked together to carry out the bin Laden raid.

They also include the special operations trainers who work with host nations’ militaries.

Brennan said the strategy relies on “surgical’’ action against specific groups to decapitate their leadership and deny them safe havens and rejects costly wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan that bleed the United States economically and feed Al Qaeda’s narrative that America is out to occupy the Muslim world.