WASHINGTON — In a draft executive order intended to broaden the White House’s authority over national security-related detention and interrogation programs, the Trump Administration appears to be formally shifting its counter-terror footing from the “War on Terror” to the “fight against radical Islam,” a controversial phrasing long urged by some conservative hawks.
According to a draft of the order obtained by the Washington Post, the words “war on terror” were deleted from the order and replaced with “fight against radical Islam.”
However, the White House press secretary told reporters Wednesday the draft is "not a White House document."
“While there has been continuity in many of the military and intelligence policies of the United States in the fight against radical Islamism,” the draft states, deleting the phrase "global war on terrorism," on its explanatory statement of the executive order made public Wednesday.
That post-9/11 phrase has served as the foundational war footing for both the Bush and Obama administrations, both of which relied on the war on terror doctrine — mainly, a sweeping 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force — to expand an originally limited set of counter-terror operations into large swaths of the Middle East and north Africa. Many of the groups targeted by the US under this doctrine were violent extremists who claimed their attacks in the name of Islam. The 2001 AUMF and war on terror doctrine are still both being used to cover the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Both presidents made pains to avoid declaring their enemy as a particular strain of the religion over concerns that this could be used by militant ideologues to rally more to their cause against the West.
That the Trump Administration is now publicly broadening the rhetoric is a significant shift, and could allow for even further twisting of the original war on terror statute.