Obama Says Collaboration Is Best Response to Global Challenges

President Obama, shown here with West Point cadets, called for a U.S. Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund that would provide resources and training to countries where terrorist networks are seeking a foothold.

President Obama, shown here with West Point cadets, called for a U.S. Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund that would provide resources and training to countries where terrorist networks are seeking a foothold.

Washington,
28 May 2014

President Obama said U.S. foreign policy will place greater emphasis on global collective action through international institutions and alliances, saying multinational cooperation has shown itself to be the most successful and sustainable response to instability, terrorism, climate change, poverty and other 21st-century challenges.

Speaking May 28 at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, Obama said the United States remains the “indispensable nation” on the global stage. He rejected calls from domestic critics for it to pursue a more isolationist role in the world.

“The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe. And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help,” he said.

Addressing graduating cadets, Obama said the question “is not whether America will lead but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”

The president’s remarks came one day after he announced his plan to complete the removal of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. U.S. forces will be reduced from 9,800 at the beginning of 2015 to a level needed to provide “a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq,” he said in Washington May 27.

“It’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Obama said, adding that the reduced U.S. military posture in Afghanistan “will allow us to redirect some of the resources saved by ending these wars to respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism, while addressing a broader set of priorities around the globe.”

OBAMA CALLS FOR “NETWORK OF PARTNERSHIPS” AGAINST TERRORISM

In West Point, the president said terrorism remains “the most direct threat” to the United States for the foreseeable future, and that its counterterrorism experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as changes in the nature of the threat, require a shift toward greater partnerships with countries where terrorist networks are seeking a foothold.

To help train their security forces and build counterterrorism capacity, Obama proposed a Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and asked U.S. lawmakers to support it with $5 billion in funding.

“These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who’ve gone on the offensive against al-Qaida, supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia, working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya, and facilitating French operations in Mali,” he said.

The funds would also provide support to countries that are responding to the needs of Syrian refugees and help for Syrians who are fighting both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and religious extremists in their country, he said.

A senior administration official who asked not to be identified told reporters May 28 that the terrorism threat has changed as a result of the degrading of al-Qaida’s centralized core and the emergence of smaller affiliates in various countries.

Through capacity-building, the United States wants to build “a network of partners across this region” and support it with “resources that range from intelligence to special operations to trainers,” as well as direct action “when it is necessary for our own security,” the official said.

President Obama’s proposed fund would ensure that there are sufficient resources and flexibility available to support those missions, the official said.

U.S. STRENGTHENED BY INDIVIDUAL EMPOWERMENT

The president said U.S. support for human rights and democracy is “a matter of national security” and offers a counter to “instability and grievances that fuel violence and terror.”

“America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it. We’re strengthened by civil society. We’re strengthened by a free press. We’re strengthened by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses. We’re strengthened by educational exchange and opportunity for all people, and women and girls,” he said.

The Obama administration official added that along with supporting democratic transitions, the United States would also increase its focus on civil society and broaden its “relationships and networks with peoples around the world.”

The official said U.S. global leadership would be rooted by “strengthening existing international institutions and norms” and by working to establish clear international rules to respond to emerging challenges such as cybersecurity, maritime issues and climate change.

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