WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – During a press conference on Friday at the White House, President Barack Obama said that the United States is not likely to ever eradicate terrorism.

“We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism,” he told press gathered in the White House for a conference on Friday. “What we can do is weaken it and strengthen our partnerships in a way that [they do] not pose the horrible threat that we saw on 9/11.”

He noted that terrorist cells are “less likely to carry out spectacular homeland attacks like 9/11” but that they do have the “capacity to go after our embassies … and business” and to have a “destabilizing and disruptive” effect on areas where the “security apparatus is weak.”

“What I said … back in May [in a speech] … is that core al-Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated,” Obama said when asked about recent terror threats. “What I also said is that … other extremists [and cells] have metastasized [and] could pose significant dangers.”

When asked about recent drone strikes, however, he simply stated that he was “not going to discuss specific operations.”

In recent days, U.S. officials have said they have received significant and detailed intelligence suggesting a possible attack, with some clues pointing to the al-Qaeda terror network. The State Department said the potential for terrorism was particularly acute in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring on or coming from the Arabian Peninsula.

Obama said on Wednesday that security threats will never lead the U.S. to retreat from the world. He additionally remarked that Americans don’t get terrorized while responding to new threats from al-Qaeda that led the U.S. to close 19 diplomatic outposts and evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. The U.S. also issued a travel warning for Americans in Pakistan Friday and evacuated most of the personnel from the U.S. consulate in Lahore.

Michael Morell, second-in-command at the Central Intelligence Agency, referred specifically to security issues posed by Syria as “the most important issue in the world today” in remarks made during a recent interview focused on the main threats against the United States.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Morell was especially concerned with the dangerous combination of al-Qaeda extremists in the embattled area and what he called “in essence … a Cold War going on in the Middle East between Iran and the moderate Sunni states and the West.”

He additionally called the issue as a challenge that will likely remain a prominent focus for the United States for several decades to come.

The press conference, his first full one at the White House since April, focused especially upon strained relations with Russia.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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