tv President Obama Delivers Final Speech on Counterterrorism Strategy CSPAN December 10, 2016 11:15am-12:06pm EST
go to the helicopter. people would shout a question and he would give a quick answer. some of the times is giving an answer and it was off-the-cuff, but it was interesting, it was news, and we reported. >> he might be tweeting all the time come you never know. >> there is just more social media. it is spreading and spreading and nothing is stopping it. people need to sit back and figure out that this is fake news, a lot of it out there. i don't know how they do that, but -- >> i think we have run out of time. i want to thank you guys for much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
announcer: sunday on c-span3, at 1:00 p.m., a symposium on world war ii spies and codebreakers spy ring.i and a nazi >> the decision to join the resistance was a serious one. she had a husband and she had a 15 year old son, philip jackson. -- as a place use where the resistance could meet and where intelligence was struck, she was risking to not only her life but her husband's and son's. 1920's, a couple more tried and executed for robbery and murder in massachusetts despite the lack of supporting professoror a law discusses the controversy around the case inside the supreme court chambers with
introductions by which gator ins bert -- ruth bader ginsburg. >> that were transferred to the debt has printed the governor after reading -- they were transferred to the death chamber. the boston press declared the case closed. announcer: on the presidency, a historian talks about herbert hoover's humanitarian efforts. >> in the course of the exertions, hoover working voluntarily and without pay became an international hero, the embodiment of a new force in the global politics. benevolence in the form of humanitarian aid programs. announcer: for complete schedule, go to c-span.org. announcement president obama gave his final national security buriedin tampa, florida
he talks about counterterrorism efforts and other national security issues addressed by his administration over the last eight years. this is 50 minutes. [applause] ♪ announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. ♪ [cheers and applause] pres. obama: thank you so much. thank you. thank you, everybody. thank you so much. everybody, thank you. thank you very much. thank you. [cheers and applause]
president pres. obama: thank you, everybody please have a seat. thank you so much. good afternoon, everybody. i was just told that was going to be the last "hail to the chief" on the road and it got me kind of sentimental. i was able to visit with some of the men and women from macdill air force base, central command, special operations command, to thank them for their extraordinary service. so to you and your families and to the extended family of american service members, let me
say that our nation owes you and unbelievable debt of gratitude. we are grateful for you and we will be praying for you over the holidays. [applause] pres. obama: as you know, your mission was changed after the 9/11 attacks. and the time i took office, the united states had been at war for seven years. for eight years that i've been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some other radicalized individual was not plotting to kill americans. and on january 20, i will become the first resident of the united states to serve two full terms
during a time of war. now, we did not choose this fight. but once it came to us, the world saw the measure of our results. the most solemn responsibility for any president is keeping the american people safe. and in carrying out that duty i have sent men and women into harm's way. i visited troops around the globe. i have met our wounded warriors. and i grieved with gold star families. and i know better than most that it is because of your service and your sacrifice that we have been able during these eight years to protect our homeland,
to strike crippling blows against terrorist networks, and to fortify our friends and our allies. so today i would like to reflect on the work and talk about the foundation we will leave for the next administration. i came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as commander-in-chief. i believe that the united states military can achieve any mission. that we are in and must remain the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. [applause] president obama: i believe we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary against any imminent threats to our people.
but i have also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world or resolve their internal conflicts particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgencies. instead, it has been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like al qaeda and isil, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight. we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security. these convictions guiding the policies we pursued both in iraq and afghanistan.
when i took office, the united states was focused overwhelmingly on a iraq where nearly 150,000 american troops has spent years fighting an insurgency and helping to build a democratic government. meanwhile, al qaeda had regrouped in other regions of afghanistan and pakistan and was actively planning attacks against our homeland. so we brought nearly 150,000 troops home from iraq, consistent with the status of forces agreement negotiated by the previous administration. we served our efforts along with our allies in afghanistan which allowed us to focus on dismantling al qaeda and give the afghan government the opportunity to succeed. this focus on al qaeda, the most dangerous threat to the united states at the time, paid dividends. today, by any measure, al qaeda,
the organization that hit us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. [applause] pres. obama: plots directed from within afghanistan and pakistan have been consistently disrupted. its leadership has been decimated. dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. osama bin laden is dead. [applause] pres. obama: and importantly, we built a counterterrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network and southeast asia that may threaten the united states of america. that is because of the work of our outstanding service members. moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in afghanistan allowed us to build
the capacity of afghans to secure and defend their own country. so today they are less than -- there are less than 10,000 american troops in afghanistan. instead of being in the lead against the taliban, americans are now supporting 320,000 afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counterterrorism efforts. i do not want to paint too rosy of a picture. the situation in afghanistan is still tough. war has been a part of life in afghanistan for over 30 years. the united states cannot eliminate the taliban or violence in that country but we can do is deny al qaeda a safe haven and support afghans who
want a better future which is why we work not only with their military but we have backed the government in kabul. we helped afghani girls go to school. we helped with electricity and education. you have made a different in afghanistan and america is safer for it. [applause] pres. obama: of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to south asia or afghanistan or pakistan. even as al qaeda has been decimated in afghanistan and pakistan, the threat from terrorists metastasized in other parts of the middle east and africa. most dangerously, we saw the emergence of isil.
the terrorist network and insurgency. there has been a debate about isil that is focused on whether or not an attempt back in time could've stopped them from growing. this was not an option. by 2011, iraqis wanted our military presence to end and they were unwilling to sign an agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in iraq. in addition, maintaining american troops in iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to isis's rise. a brutal dictator in syria who lost control over large parts of the country. social media that reached a global poll of recruits and a hollowing out of iraq security forces which were ultimately overrun in mosul in 2014.
in fact, american troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remaining on bases or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict remaig drawn into a sectarian conflict against the elected government of iraq or the local iraqi population. circumstances changed. gainssil made substantial , first in mosul then in other parts of the country, the iraqis reached out for help. in shaping our response, we refused to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that helped give rise to the organization that became isil in the first place. reconditioned our help on the emergence of a new iraqi
government and prime minister committed to national unity and working with us. we built an international nations, of nearly 70 including some of iraq's neighbors. intelligence resources to better understand the enemy and took the fight to isil in iraq and syria. not with american battalions, by oural forces backed equipment, advisors, and special forces. isilampaign, we have hit with 16,000 airstrikes. we have equipped and trained tens of thousands of partners on the ground. the results are clear. isil has lost more than half of its territory. it has lost control of major population centers.
it's per row is plummeting. its recruitment is drying up. its commanders and external plotters are being taken out and local populations are turning against them. [applause] pres. obama: as we speak, isil faces an offensive on mosul from iraqi troops and coalition support, that is the largest remaining city that it controls. aqqa isa isil r being squeezed and we have attacked the financial pipeline. the bottom line is that we are breaking the back of isil taking we have safe havens and accomplished all of this at the cost of $10 billion over 2
years, the same amount we used to spend in one month at the height of the iraq war. so, the campaign [applause] hascampaign against isil been relentless, sustainable, multilateral, and demonstrates a shift in how we have taken the fight to terrorists everywhere. instead of pushing all the burden onto american ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we have held a network of partners. in libya, where u.s. air power has helped malicious dislodge a dangerous isil cell. where supports helped french allies rolled back al qaeda branches there.
in somalia where u.s. operations of art and african union led force and international peacekeepers. in yemen, four years of targeted strikes integrated isil in the peninsula. these offensive efforts have totressed a global effort make terrorist networks harder to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies. working with european allies who suffered terrible attacks, we have strengthened intelligence sharing and cut in half the flow of four fighters to isil. we have worked with our tech sector to push back terrorist messages on social media that motivates people to kill. recent studies show that isil's propaganda has been cut in half. we have launched a global engagement center to it our voices countering isil's
perversion of islam, and are working with partners from the gulf to southeast asia. this is your work. should take great pride in the progress that we have made over the last 8 years. that is the bottom line. no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. [applause] it is not because they did not try. ts have been disrupted, terrorists have been taken off the battlefield. we have done this even as we drew down 180,000 troops in harm's way in iraq and afghanistan. today there are just 15,000. new partnerships have been
built. we respected the rule of law. we have it listed our values in this fight. all of this progress is due to the service of millions of americans like you in intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomacy, the armed services of the united dates of america. it is thanks to you. [applause] thanks to you. [applause] now, to say that we made progress is not to say the job is done. we know that a deadly threat persists. we know that in some form this violent extremism will be with us for years to come. into many parts of the world, many parts-- in too of the world, especially the middle east, there has in a
breakdown of order. they have unleashed forces that will take a generation to resolve. long-term corruption has rotted nationstates from within. governments collapse, sectarian states rage. competition for food and water. false prophets are peddling a vision of islam that is irreconcilable with dollars and and basic science -- with dollars and -- with tolerantism and basic science. everyone of these is in play today. what complicates the challenge ofe is the fact that for all our necessary focus on fighting the most overseas, deadly attacks on the homeland have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment directed from abroad.
they have been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online. cannoteranged killers inflict the mass casualties we pain of/11, but the those who lost loved ones in and, san bernardino -- boston, san bernardino, fort hood, and orlando, that pain continues to this day. in some cases it has stirred the and threatens to change way we think about ourselves and our lives. have made it more difficult, you have made it more difficult, to carry out attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure. the clearlyachieve defined victory comparable to
those we won in previous wars against the nations. you will not have a scene of the emperor of japan and douglas macarthur in surrender. the reason we won't have that is because technology makes it impossible to shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies. somebody who is trying to kill willing -- to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous, particularly when we are living in a country where it is very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon. offer falsean promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more arms or deploying more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.
in the time remaining, let me suggest what i think should guide this approach. first of all, a sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective. the terrorist threat is real and , it is dangerous, but these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order. they are not. they are thugs, they are murderers, and they should be treated that way. [applause] pres. obama: fascism threatens to overrun the entire world, and we had to wage total war in response. communism threatened not only to overturn a world order, but threatened nuclear holocaust, so armaments andd
alliances to contain it. today terrorists can kill , innocent people, but they don't pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make a mistake of elevating them as if they do. that does their job for them. it makes them more important and helps them with recruitment. a second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through overreach. by protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm's way overseas, we helped save resources, but more importantly we saved lives. i can tell you during the course of my years that i have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary. it's always the hardest decision
i make, but it's one that i have made where the security of the american people is at stake. and i have seen the cost. i have held the hands of our wounded warriors at walter reed. i have met the caskets of the fallen at dover. and that is why i make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm's way when there is a clear mission that is achievable, and when it is absolutely necessary. number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness in the long-term, it is our greatest strength. [applause] pres. obama: the whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy.
the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear. these terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life. but we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon. [applause] pres. obama: and i always remind myself that as commander-in-chief, i must protect our people, but i also swore an oath to defend our constitution. and over these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values. we prohibited torture everywhere, at all times, and
that includes tactics like waterboarding, and at no time has anybody who has worked with me tell me that doing so has cost us good intelligence. [applause] pres. obama: when we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law. our article three courts have delivered justice faster than military trials. and our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists. consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully and take -- lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts. the one who tried to set up a car bomb in times square.
dzhokhar tsarnaev, the boston marathon bomber. omar faruk, the so-called underwear bomber. american juries and judges have determined that none of these people will know freedom again, but we did it lawfully and the wheels of justice are turning for others, such as the accused leader of the benghazi attacks. we can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are. in fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the facility at guantanamo. [applause] pres. obama: this is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of many military leaders. during my administration, we
have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield, and we have cut the population in gitmo from 242 to 59. the politics of fear has led congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the united states, even though as we speak we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons, and we have even more dangerous criminals and all of our prisons across the country. even though our allies often times will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in gitmo. even though groups like isil use gitmo in their propaganda. so we are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in cuba. that's not a strength.
until congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and i will continue to do all that i can to remove this block on our national honor. [applause] pres. obama: number four, we have to fight terrorism in a way that does not create more terrorists. for example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it is often impossible to capture them, or to count on local governments to do so, and that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike. so we have taken action. -- we have taken action under my command, including withdrawals, -- including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which has prevented real threats to the american people.
[applause] pres. obama: under rules that i have put in place and made public, before any threat is taken outside of a war zone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured. and while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic incidents where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set. nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong, and i say to them you have to weigh the alternatives. drone strikes allow us to deny a safe haven without air strikes which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent
civilians as well as american servicemembers. the actions we have taken have saved lives at home and abroad. but the point is that we do have to be careful to ensure that when we take actions, we are not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists. number five, transparency and accountability serve our national security not just in times of peace, but more importantly in times of conflict. that's why we have made public information about which terrorist organization we are fighting and why we are fighting them. we released assessments of noncombatants killed in our operations. taken responsibility when mistakes are made. we declassified information about interrogation methods that were wrong, so we learned from past mistakes. and yesterday, i directed our government for the first time to release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military
operations around the world. this public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power. the power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens. [applause] pres. obama: but here's the thing, that information does not mean anything. it doesn't work if the people's representatives in congress do not do their jobs. if they are not paying attention. [applause] pres. obama: right now we are waging war under authorities provided by congress over 15 years ago. 15 years ago. hi had no gray hair 15 years
ago. [laughter] pres. obama: two years ago, i asked congress, let's update authorization for a war against isil, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons we have learned from the last decade. so far, congress has refused to take a vote. democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war. that's not good for our military, it's not good for our democracy. [applause] pres. obama: and by the way, part of the reason that's dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all volunteer force, only 1% of the population is actually fighting, which means that you are carrying the burden. which means it is we are doing
-- which means that it is important for us to know what we are doing, and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send 1% of the population out to do things even if they are not well thought through. if a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of congress should have the courage to make clear where they stand. not on the sidelines, not on cable tv shows, but by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threat that we face today. that's how democracies are supposed to work. number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy. terrorists would like to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international
coalitions, inns conflict, and stops the spread of deadly weapons. it would make life easier for them. it would be a tragic mistake for us. think about what we have done the last eight years without firing a shot. we have rolled back iran's nuclear program. that's not my assessment. that's the assessment of iranian intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal. we have secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they would all into the hands of terrorists. we have eliminated syria's chemical weapons program. all of these states have helped keep us safe and keep our troops safe. those are the result of diplomacy. and sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult may sometimes appear are going to be required to resolve the conflicts boiling in the middle east, and if we don't have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean
up after the failure of diplomacy. similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies. our generals, our commanders, understand this. this is not charity. it's fundamental to our national security. a dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting and war. -- fighting a war. [applause] pres. obama: this is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place. this is how we can ensure peace is lasting, after we have fought. it's how we stop people from falling prey to extremism, because children are going to school and can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and are not desperate, and communities are not ravaged by disease.
as americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil society so there are outlets for people's frustrations. we have to support entrepreneurs who build businesses instead of destroying. we have to invest in young people, because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge use bold bulge, which makes them more dangerous. and there are times we have to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war in search of a better life. [applause] pres. obama: our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security. it is central to our plans in places like afghanistan and iraq. let's make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets as well. and finally, in this fight, we
have to a the civil liberties that define us. the civil uphold liberties that define us. terrorists want us to turn on one another. and while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all our governments, we have to make sure that changes in how we address terrorists are not abused. this is why, for example, we have made extensive reforms on how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing the new restrictions on the government's ability to maintain a new surge of communications so that people trust us, and that way they cooperate and work with us. we don't use our power to indiscriminately read emails or listen to phone calls targeted at folks who might be trying to
do us harm. we use it to save lives. by doing so, by maintaining the civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the american people and we get the cooperation of our allies. -- the cooperation of our allies more readily. protecting liberty, that's something we do for all americans, not just some. [applause] pres. obama: we are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of islam, but they do not speak for a billion muslims around the world, and they do not speak for american muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the united states of america's military. [applause] pres. obama: if we stigmatize good, patriotic muslims, that just feeds the terrorists' narrative.
it fuels the same false grievances they used to kill. if we act like this is a war between the united states and islam, we will not just lose more americans to terrorist attacks, we will also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend. so in my final words to you, as your commander-in-chief, be a reminder of what it is you are fighting for. what it is we are fighting for. the united states of america is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price to freedom. we are a country that was founded so that people could practice their faith as they choose. the united states of america is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special id card, or prove they are not an enemy from within. we are a country that has bled
, and struggled, and sacrifice against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule. here in our own country and around the world. we are a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted, and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it. the universal right to speak your mind and a protest against authority. to live in a society that is open and free. that can criticize a president without retribution. [applause] pres. obama: a country where you are judged by the content of your character, rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or where your family came from. that's what separates us from pirates and terrorists. we are a nation that stands for the rule of law and strengthens
the laws of war. when the nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. some could not understand that. it had never happened before. but, as one of the american lawyers who was at nuremberg is, -- says, i was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior, and by doing so, we brought it the scope and reach of justice around the world. we held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others. we are a nation that won world wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated. we helped them rebuild. we did not hold onto territory, other than the cemeteries where we bury our dead.
our greatest generation fought , and bled, and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace and prosperity and promote cooperation among nations. for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our freedom. in other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope and not fear. a country that went through the crucible of a civil war to offer a new birth of freedom that stormed the beaches of normandy, climbed the hills of iwo jima, that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights. that's who we are. that's what makes us stronger than any act of terror. remember that history.
remember what that flag stands for. for we depend on you, the heirs to that legacy, our men and women in uniform, and the you, to who support carry forward what is best in us, that commitment to a common creed, a confidence that light makes might, not the other way around. [applause] pres. obama: that's how we can sustain this long struggle. that's how we will protect this country. that's how we will protect our constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic. i trust that you will fulfill that mission, because you have