US President Barack Obama plans to lay out on Thursday his administration's evolving counterterrorism policies, from the controversial use of drones to efforts to close the notorious US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a White House official has said.

Obama's use of military drone aircraft to attack extremists has drawn fire and increased tensions in countries like Pakistan and been criticized by human rights activists in the United States.

The president will "discuss our broad counterterrorism policy, including our military, diplomatic, intelligence and legal efforts" at National Defense University in Washington, the official was quoted as saying in media reports.

The speech comes amid renewed scrutiny of counter-terror coordination after April's attack at the Boston Marathon, a lengthy hunger strike among more than half of Guantanamo's detainees, and the administration's pursuit of leakers of classified information to an American news agency. He had planned to deliver it earlier in May, but the speech was delayed as the administration worked to respond to recent events and refined its policies, the official said.

Obama plans elaborate on "the state of the threats we face, particularly as Al Qaeda core has weakened but new dangers have emerged," the official was quoted as saying. He will also "discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones" and "will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."

The president will also "frame the future of our efforts against Al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents." The official described the speech as an effort by Obama to follow through on the pledge he made in his State of the Union address in February. The president said then that he will “continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."

Obama has since said more about Guantanamo, responding to a reporter's question about the hunger strike there by renewing his pledge to close the facility and to work with Congress to do so.

He pledged to close the facility during his 2008 campaign and announced at the start of his first term that the closure would take place within a year, only to be blocked by Congress in following through. Built hastily more than a decade ago at the start of George W. Bush's war on terror, Guantanamo is at a turning point, with its facilities under disrepair and, in Obama's view, its policies in need of review.

Although torture is no longer allowed in US interrogations, the military prison at Guantanamo still holds 166 prisoners, more than half of whom are now on a hunger strike to protest conditions, according to officials. Obama said last month that he would try again to close Guantanamo, despite enduring congressional opposition.

Also concerning many human rights and civil liberties groups has been Obama’s significant expansion of the drone program, including the first killing of a US citizen with an unmanned aircraft without charge or trial. Obama approved the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni American cleric affiliated with al-Qaeda, in 2011.

As Obama continues to wind down the US military presence in Afghanistan in advance of next year’s end-of-combat operations, the drone programme is becoming an even more important part of the administration’s counterterrorism policy in the region.

Obama has used it to keep pressure on al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and, more recently, in Yemen. But the programme is rarely acknowledged publicly by the administration, and Obama has said that he must do more to explain the legal underpinnings of drone use.

The White House official said Obama has used “all tools of national power in an aggressive campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat al-Qaeda.” The official noted that he has also “insisted that we enlist our values in this fight and act in line with the rule of law.”

In the Thursday speech, the official said, “he will frame the future of our efforts against al-Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents.”