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Republicans hit Obama's revamped counterterrorism plan, say president’s ‘tone-deaf’

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FILE: June 29, 2010: Sen. Lindsey Graham is shown here questioning Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C. (AP)

Republican leaders on Sunday bashed President Obama’s revamped counterterrorism strategy, saying his plan to end the war on terror is “disturbing” and signals a retreat as Al Qaeda and affiliate terror groups remain dangerous and a continuing threat to homeland security.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham cited a litany of global concerns that threaten America and its allies before attacking Obama’s post 9/11 strategy -- including Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.

“At a time when we need resolve the most, we're sounding retreat," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.” "We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over. What do you think the Iranians are thinking? At the end of the day, this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine."

The criticism follows a speech Thursday by the president in which he explained his new strategy and said Al Qaeda is "on the path to defeat.”

Obama also signaled his reluctance to send troops to Syria or other Middle East countries struggling with instability in the effort to achieve democracy. And he called for a more limited use of drones, or unmanned aircraft, to kill known terrorists on foreign soil, an attempt to limit civilian casualties.

The president also redoubled his longstanding, yet unfulfilled promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where many terrorism suspects are being held without formal charges.

“This war, like all wars, must end,” Obama said. “That’s what history advises. That is what our democracy demands. In America, we’ve faced down angers far greater than Al Qaeda by staying true to our values.”

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN on Sunday that Obama’s speech was “the most significant foreign policy address ever given by this president."

He agreed that the core of Al Qaeda has been desecrated but also argued the terror group remains a serious threat as it morphs, becomes more tactical and splinters into affiliate groups.

“The rhetoric defies the reality that we've all been briefed on,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I couldn’t disagree with him more.”

However, several leading Democratic senators on Sunday defended the president and his policies.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., reprised Obama's theme that maintaining a wartime posture runs the risk of compromising U.S. principles.

"If we're constantly thinking of this as a war, we stand a chance of doing things that compromise our freedoms," Durbin told Fox.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., argued that Obama made clear the United States will keep up its fight against Al Qaeda while trying to become more transparent in its efforts and using other tactics such as diplomacy and sanctions in the evolving world.

“I think the president did a very, very smart pivot,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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