CNN: Jake Tapper sat down with President Obama in Fort Lee, Virginia, home of the Combined Arms Support Command, for a CNN Presidential Town Hall to discuss veterans, national security and foreign policy issues impacting the US Military.
MAJOR JONATHAN YOST: Mr. President, since you assumed office in 2009, there has been a substantial increase in terror attacks around the world. Likewise, here in the U.S., we've had major attacks in large cities such as Orlando, New York City, and elsewhere. Sir, my question to you, are we doing anything now greater to combat Islamic jihadists?
OBAMA: Well, I think that -- first of all, it's important to recognize that if you look worldwide, the number of terrorist incidents has not substantially increased. What we've seen are some very high profile attacks, mostly in the Middle East, also in our European theaters. ISIL's emergence, obviously, has underscored the fact that even after we killed Bin Laden, even after we dismantled al-Qaeda, which was the primary threat when I came into office, that the ideology of hatred and killing had metastasized.
And we've now seen a number of incidents here in the homeland, but they're different in kind from the sorts of attacks that we saw on 9/11. Part of what has happened is because of the outstanding work of our men and women in uniform, and us dismantling al-Qaeda, partly because of hardening the homeland, the incredible ramp up of intelligence work that we do, the much more effective cooperation between law enforcement and the military so that information sharing, for example, between the FBI and cities and law enforcement officials there has much improved, because of the improvements we've made on aviation, it is much harder for terrorist organizations to carry out large scale attacks.
The challenge we have, and this is going to be a challenge that we have for a while, is that it is possible for individuals or small groups of people to be inspired, and if they're willing to die to carry out significant harm, even though they're not directed from the outside, even though there's not a complicated plot, and these so-called lone wolf terrorist actors are going to be our biggest danger because they're the most difficult to see coming, and that's why our goal right now is, dismantling ISIL will reduce the appeal of what they're broadcasting through the internet, the poison that they're feeding people oftentimes who may have other mental illnesses or be troubled in some way.
But you take an example like the situation in Orlando. You have an individual here who has not broken any laws, who, because of the way we organize our ability to purchase firearms, can go into a store legally, buy a bunch of firearms, and if he goes into a club and decides he wants to shoot a lot of folks, he can do a lot of damage.
And so part of what we're having to do is to, even as we go after ISIL and dismantle them, we're also going to have to work to figure out, how do we block or counteract some of the hateful ideology that's coming over the internet, and we're also going to have to take some common sense precautions about how people who may have been inspired by these jihadists are able to get firearms, for example, and go into a club or into a mall and start shooting people up. And that's going to be a challenge. But I do think it's important for us to maintain perspective here. The work that this military has done and the work that our law enforcement has done has made us significantly safer today than we were when 9/11 happened.
TAPPER: Thank you, Major.