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World NewsObama seeks support for $5bn counter-terrorism fund

President Barack Obama called on Wednesday for the creation of a $5bn fund to support counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East and Africa to deal with a threat from al-Qaeda which had become more "diffuse".

Speaking at West Point, Mr Obama said that terrorism still remained the biggest threat to the country but that the US needed to find new ways to address the risks from al-Qaeda that have spread well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, reports Geoff Dyer in Washington.

The new fund, which he asked Congress to approve, would allow the US to "train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines and give us flexibility to fulfil different missions," Mr Obama said.

The speech was designed to address the mounting criticism that Mr Obama is facing about a lack of direction in his foreign policy, as he is buffeted between crises in Ukraine, Syria and the South China Sea.

Embracing the language of America as an "exceptional" and "indispensable" nation, Mr Obama insisted that the US would take unilateral military action if its "core interests" were challenged, including "when the security of our allies is in danger".

But he also warned against the "costly mistakes" that come "from our willingness to rush into military adventures – without thinking through the consequences". He added: "Tough talk draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans."

Attempting to find a middle path between the war-weariness of the current public mood and the interventionist ideas of many of his critics, Mr Obama said: "America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will….. But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership."

He added: "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail."

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