Kerry: Syria War Dragged on, Foreign Fighters Flocked to 'Amazement of Many'

Launching this week’s Mideast tour, Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC from Abu Dhabi this morning that the war in Syria has dragged on for four and a half years and Westerners have been going there to fight to everyone’s “amazement.”

Asked if there’s an imminent threat against the United States, Kerry replied, “I can assure you that we don’t have a specific threat stream or specific evidence in front of us, but there is always — as we’ve said to people for years — the threat of some actor, some lone wolf person, someone who slipped through.”

“That’s the world we’re living in today and we understand that. Ever since 9/11, many experts across the United States, without regard to political party or to elections, have consistently said to us it’s probably not a question of if; it’s a question of when,” he said, adding “we have every single effort being made by Homeland Security, by the FBI, by Interpol, by intelligence communities exchanging information, and people are working hard at this. And we have averted many different plots against the United States.”

Confronted with recent attacks coupled with the administration’s assertion that its anti-ISIS strategy is working, Kerry said the Paris, Beirut and Sharm el-Sheikh attacks show “that ISIL has not yet been defeated, and we understand that.”

“Regrettably, for four years, this war in Syria has been going on and people have been traveling from all over the world to the amazement of many people, but they have been traveling even from the United States to go fight in Syria. So some people have returned to their homelands and they have been taught the tradecraft of terror, regrettably,” he said.

“So, no — we’ve only had the coalition against Daesh for one year now. We put that coalition together a year ago when Daesh started to move through the region. And the fact is that during that period of time, about — let me just finish — about 25 percent of their territory that they controlled has been taken away from them. Leadership has been eliminated from the battlefield. Whole towns and communities have been eliminated. The answer is no, it has to be picked up, the pace has to be picked up, and more needs to be done, and everybody understands that.”

Faced with the words of former administration officials and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who have criticized the pace of the administration’s efforts, Kerry pointed to the 50 Special Forces soldiers President Obama authorized to fight against ISIS on the ground before the Paris attacks.

“Now, yes, ISIL has brought in people in other countries. It hasn’t expanded by moving to those other countries; it has taken terrorists who already exist in those other countries and they have pledged loyalty to Daesh. That’s different,” Kerry insisted. “And we know there are people who are terrorists in Libya, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, and other places. What Daesh has succeeded in doing is attracting them because of what they’ve been doing on the ground in Syria and in Iraq. And we have been focused on attacking them in Syria and Iraq, and I am convinced that will increase even more so in the days ahead.”