WASHINGTON: On his first full working day as US president, Donald Trump reiterated his pledge to eradicate “Islamic terrorism” from the face of the planet and alerted the American intelligence agencies to be ready for wars.
“Radical Islamic terrorism. And I said it yesterday — it has to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil,” Mr Trump told officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when he visited its headquarters at Langley, Virginia, on Saturday.
In his inaugural speech on Friday, the new US president vowed to “unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism” and pledged to “eradicate (it) completely from the face of the Earth”.
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During the long campaign for the 2016 presidential election, Mr Trump often criticised Barack Obama for not using the terms “radical Islamic terrorism” and said that unless the enemy was openly identified, it could not be defeated.
In his speech at the CIA headquarters, the new president went a step ahead and warned his intelligence officials, and the American nation, that the war against the radical form of Islam was far from over.
Mr Trump said that when he was young, he heard from one of his instructors that “the United States has never lost a war”. But now, “it’s like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.”
Referring to America’s longest foreign war, in Afghanistan, Mr Trump said it had continued for so long because the United States did not use its full might. “We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained,” he said while promising CIA officials more powers than they have ever had to combat the country’s enemies.
“We have to get rid of ISIS [Islamic State militant group]. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice,” he declared, earning a warm applause from the audience.
“There can be wars between countries, there can be wars.… This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it,” he said.
He told CIA officials that previous governments had not given them enough support but he would change this. “I want to just let you know that I am so behind you and I know, maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted and you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say — please don’t give us so much backing,” he said.
Mr Trump also criticised the US media for reporting that he had a feud with the American intelligence community. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth …. I am with you 1,000 per cent,” he said.
Before taking oath, Mr Trump had criticised the CIA for saying that the Russian intelligence had hacked the 2016 elections and that the Russians had materials that they could use to blackmail him.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Mr Trump had tweeted on Jan 11.
The president’s decision to talk about his war with the media and complain about the reporting of the size of the crowd at his inauguration ceremony, however, irked CIA veterans.
“Former CIA director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandisement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,” Mr Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro said in a statement.
Other veterans said that many in the audience were troubled by the political tone of the speech, in which Mr Trump speculated about how many people in the room might have voted for him.
CIA veterans argued that their agency was not a political party, it was always loyal to the president, whoever he or she might be.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2017