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President Obama Delivers Counterterrorism Speech

© REUTERS / Carlo AllegriU.S. President Barack Obama sits after addressing the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 20, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama sits after addressing the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 20, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Speaking in Tampa, Florida, at MacDill Air Force Base, the home of the US Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, Barack Obama delivered his final major speech on national security as President.

Prior to the event, the White House told the press that the president would be arguing that his administration has been successful in their efforts to disrupt Daesh and other extremist groups. The White House stated that the president would discuss his belief that building coalitions and working with locals to defeat terrorist leaders is the most sustainable approach to defeat the violent organization.

"I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary, against any imminent threats to our people," Obama stated. "But, I've 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."

Instead, he stated that the US should ask allies to do their share in the fight, and strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security.

Speaking on Afghanistan, Obama asserted that the situation is "still tough," and that the US cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in the region.

"What we can do is deny al-Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future," Obama said.

On terrorism, the US President stated that the threat is real and dangerous.

"So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and 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 pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained," Obama stated.

He explained that terrorists are "thugs" and "murderers" and should be "treated that way." He explained that he does not believe that we should elevate them however, by claiming they are an existential threat, as this only empowers them and their message.

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Speaking on Guantanamo Bay, the president asserted that "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 in our prisons across the country."

The president also noted that often times, allies won't turn over terrorists in fear that they will end up in Gitmo. Obama also pointed out that the military prison is used in Daesh propaganda. "Until Congress changes course," he said "it will be judged harshly by history."

Shortly after, the president defended his use of drone strikes by saying that it keeps the US military safe and prevents threats to the American people. While acknowledging that innocent civilians are killed, he still asserted that "this is the highest standard we can set."

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that Obama would also argue that the executive order banning waterboarding and torture has improved national security.

"We've actually been strengthened because it's easier to get other nations to cooperate with us," Rhodes said.

President-elect Donald Trump had maintained throughout his campaign that he would rescind Obama’s executive order and put torture back on the table.

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