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Terrorists Today Pose No 'Existential Threat': President Obama

Obama says the U.S. is "breaking the back" of ISIL

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    Terrorists Today Pose No 'Existential Threat': President Obama
    Carolyn Kaster, AP
    President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6, 2016, about the administration's approach to counterterrorism campaign.

    President Barack Obama said the fight he's led against the Islamic State group has been relentless, sustainable and multilateral. He said it demonstrates a shift in how the U.S. takes on terrorists around the world.

    Speaking at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, home to U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, Obama delivered his last major national security speech before leaving office.

    Obama defended a counterterrorism strategy that has relied on U.S. special forces and local groups rather than large-scale U.S. ground forces. He said the U.S. built a "network of partners" to help fight extremists.

    "We've strengthened intelligence sharing and worked with our tech sector to support efforts to push back on terrorist messages. ISIL propaganda has been reduced by more than half," Obama said, though he did not elaborate on that fact.

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    Obama said the U.S. is "breaking the back" of ISIL.

    "That's not to say the job is done. We know a deadly threat persists," he cautioned. "This violent extremism will be with us for years to come."

    The president also addressed one of his very early agenda items: the detention facility at Guantanamo. 

    He said it's "past time to shut down" the facility. Since 2008, Obama said, the population in Gitmo has reduced from 242 to 59. 

    "I will do all I can to remove this blot on our national honor," he said.

    Obama noted that he is poised to become the first president to serve two full terms at war.

    "Democracies should not operate in a state of permanent and authorized war," the president said. He emphasized the importance of negotiating through diplomacy. "Terrorists would love to see us walk away from multi-country organizations."

    He called the U.S. a "country defined by hope, and not fear."