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Report Offers New Counterterrorism Strategy For Trump Administration


When he was running for president, candidate Donald Trump said he had a foolproof plan to defeat ISIS, but he would keep it secret. Well, now he is President-elect Trump, and the National Security Establishment is looking for details. A new commission has some ideas to offer. Its co-chair, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, spoke with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Page one of the commission's report acknowledges a striking contradiction. Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent trillions on counterterrorism, yet extremist ideology is spreading and terror attacks are increasingly frequent. Tony Blair says that does not necessarily reflect a failure.

TONY BLAIR: It's not that everything we've been doing up to date is wrong. It's, how do we deepen it?

KELLY: Blair, along with former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, led the commission for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Their new report advocates what's becoming a mantra in counterterrorism circles - start early, focus on education and community-led efforts, and preventing people from becoming radicalized in the first place.

BLAIR: We will defeat ISIS in the end. But defeating ISIS isn't going to defeat the problem. So you've got to go down and deal with the roots of it.

KELLY: The report advises partnering with tech companies to compete with extremist narratives online - also, a $1 billion annual pledge to counter extremism at the front end. The commission argues all of this should be achieved working with foreign partners, but that it must be a U.S.-led effort, which prompted me to ask...

Do you believe the U.S. today has the moral credibility to lead after Abu Ghraib, after Guantanamo, after the Iraq war?

BLAIR: Look, the West has got the moral credibility to lead this, but it should lead in partnership.

KELLY: That's a different thing from saying the U.S.

BLAIR: Yeah, but the U.S. - and you can put Britain in the same category - we're not trying to impose a view on other people. Yes, you can point to things that we have done that we may regret. But I think there's a common coming together around these questions today that is quite different from the immediate post-9/11 world.

KELLY: Another change - the election of Donald Trump. Blair declined to weigh in on how he thinks Trump may conduct counterterror policy or whether he's hopeful Trump may moderate some of the more radical ideas he pitched during the campaign. I will say this. Blair told me the world needs America's leadership. It particularly needs it now. Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.