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Obama to talk terror fight at summit

Obama to talk terror fight at summit

The Obama administration is using a three-day summit on countering violent extremism to soothe growing concerns about its ability to combat terrorism.

President Obama will speak twice at the conference, which will attract representatives from 60 countries to Washington to focus on ways to prevent radicalism in the United States and around the world.

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While the summit has been in the works for months, it comes at a critical time for an administration that has come under criticism for its efforts to fight terrorism. 

Fifty-seven percent polled in a CNN/ORC poll released Monday disapproved of both Obama’s handling of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and more broadly, of his foreign policy. That follows a string of executions by ISIS and the death of American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller.

Republicans in Congress have also taken aim at what they see as Obama’s resistance to engaging in a direct fight with Islamic radicalism.

“How can you talk about defeating an enemy you cannot name?” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said Tuesday in a statement.

“Instead of simply making speeches this week, I urge the president to overhaul his strategy and to develop a bold, actionable plan to confront violent Islamist extremism worldwide and to immediately staunch the flow of fighters.” 

The administration has also come under criticism for Obama’s reactions to terrorist attacks in Paris at a satirical newspaper and a kosher grocery store. They argued Obama should have joined other global leaders in a unity march after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and that Obama was wrong to describe the shootings at the Jewish supermarket as “random.”

Administration officials believe the summit provides an opportunity for the president to bolster his record on fighting terrorism.

“We see summits like this as a chance to inform, educate and engage as key,” a senior administration official told The Hill. “If the American people have a good solid idea of what we’re doing when it comes to counterterrorism, then they’ll be comfortable with that approach.”

Tuesday’s session, led by Vice President Biden, featured community leaders from dozens of U.S. cities along with the mayors of several European cities, and focused on local efforts aimed at curbing radicalism. The White House provided information on Department of Justice pilot programs in Minneapolis, Boston and Los Angeles that bring religious leaders together with public safety officials and local leaders.

The administration is concerned that the rise of ISIS, which has sought to bring in followers from around the world through social media, could lead to the radicalization of U.S. residents.

Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithLawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons Overnight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, called the potential for extremist groups to carry out attacks in the United States a top concern.

“I think it’s our No. 1 security concern in the U.S. right now, is being concerned about people who support [ISIS], either who have been over there and come back, or who simply pledge allegiance to them ability to combat the growing terror threat, including the flow of foreign fighters,” he said during an interview Monday with CNN’s “The Situation Report.” “I think you need to do a better job of getting to these people before they act.”

Administration officials have estimated that foreign fighters from more than 90 countries have traveled to Syria to fight, including more than 150 U.S. citizens. The challenge of stopping radicalism was further underlined by the weekend shootings in Copenhagen that left two people dead.

“Events in Australia, Canada and most recently in France, Belgium and Denmark, underscore the significance of the challenges we face in countering violent extremism,” Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said at the summit Tuesday.

Amie Parnes contributed.