Barack Obama has vowed that the United States will overcome a new phase of terrorism trying to “poison the minds” of people around the world, as he sought to reassure Americans rocked by the attacks in Paris and California.
The US president’s speech, in a rare Oval Office address, followed Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people and wounded 21.
Husband and wife Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik carried out the attack and authorities say Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and its leader in a Facebook post.
“I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure,” Mr Obama said, speaking in his West Wing office. “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.”
Mr Obama said that while there was no evidence the California killers were directed by a terror network overseas or part of a broader plot, “the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalisation”.
The president’s decision to speak from the Oval Office on US prime-time television reflected the White House’s concern that his message on the recent attacks has not broken through, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.
Yet the speech is likely to leave his critics unsatisfied. He announced no significant shift in US strategy and offered no new policy for defeating IS, underscoring both his confidence in his current approach and the lack of easy options for countering the extremist group.
Mr Obama did call for co-operation between private companies and law enforcement to ensure potential attackers cannot use technology to evade detection. He also urged Congress to pass new authorisation for military actions under way against IS in Iraq and Syria, and also to approve legislation to stop guns from being sold to people prohibited from flying on planes in the US for terrorist concerns.
He implored Americans to not turn against Muslims at home, saying IS was driven by a desire to spark a war between the West and Islam, but called on Muslims to fight extremism.