Al Qaeda threat ‘evolved,’ Obama says

President Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. military must keep fighting al Qaeda across the globe as the terror network evolves and becomes more decentralized.

While Obama said in his State of the Union address that the United States needed to “move off a permanent war footing,” he also acknowledged that the fight against al Qaeda was not ending.

"We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us — large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism," Obama said.

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The Obama administration has been criticized as al Qaeda affiliates have gained in places like Iraq and Syria, particularly after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) recently overtook the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Obama said that while al Qaeda affiliates have taken root in different parts of the world, the U.S. had still “put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat.”

“The threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world,” Obama said. “In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.”

In Syria, where al Qaeda affiliates have grown amid the chaotic civil war — and frequently clashed with moderate rebel groups — Obama said that his administration would support the opposition that “rejects the agenda of terrorist networks.”

The president said that the U.S. would continue fighting terrorism in places like Yemen and Somalia, but he also touted the “prudent limits” that he’s placed on the use of drone strikes there.

“Even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks — through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners — America must move off a permanent war footing,” he said. “That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.”