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Obama aims to allay concerns about terror-fighting strategy


Washington: President Barack Obama is planning a series of events this week aimed at trying to allay concerns about his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group abroad and its sympathizers at home.

Obama’s visits to the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center are part of a push to further explain his terrorism-fighting strategy, White House officials said, after a prime-time address last Sunday that critics said failed to do much to reassure the public.

Another goal is to draw a contrast with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his inflammatory remarks about Muslims. The Obama administration has warned Trump’s rhetoric emboldens extremists looking to pull the US into a war with Islam.

“Terrorists like ISIL are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background,” Obama said yesterday in his weekly radio and Internet address, using an acronym for the extremist group. “That’s how they stoke fear. That’s how they recruit.”

In the coming week, he said, “we’ll move forward on all fronts.”

The public relations campaign, one week before Christmas, comes as the public is jittery about the specter of terrorism after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California this month and the Paris attacks a few weeks before.

Seven in 10 Americans rated the risk of a terrorist attack in the US as at least somewhat high, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. That was a sharp increase from the 5 in 10 who said that in January.

Concerns about extremism emanating from the Middle East have taken center stage in the presidential race. Obama has tried to use his bully pulpit as a counterpoint to Republican front-runner Trump and his widely condemned proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US, and to push back on other politicians insisting on halting resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US.

The White House scheduled a conference call tomorrow with religious leaders about ways to fight discrimination and promote religious tolerance.

Aiming to put a human face on the issue, Obama is to speak Tuesday at the National Archives Museum, where 31 immigrants from Iraq, Ethiopia, Uganda and 23 other nations will be sworn in as US citizens. Obama planned to use that occasion to reframe the national conversation about immigrants around the country’s founding values of tolerance and freedom.

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