If it bleeds, it leads: announcing bin Laden’s death, Kabul, May 2011. 

When the Obama administration looks at the Middle East, it does so through the lens of counterterrorism. A systematic emphasis on the subject has underscored not just the administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda and its new focus on the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) but also a wider swath of its foreign policy, from its drone campaign in northwestern Pakistan to its maintenance of the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Building on the post-9/11 efforts of the Bush administration, U.S. President Barack Obama has established a national security machine adept at identifying and disrupting terrorist networks. Much of the U.S. strategy is based on an intelligence campaign that involves partnering with countries around the world to gather information on suspected top terrorists. In cases in which the U.S. government cannot arrest terrorists, it kills them in drone strikes or through other direct actions.

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  • DANIEL BYMAN is a Professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Senior Fellow and Research Director at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know. Follow him on Twitter @dbyman.
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