Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged getting past the “tortured debate” of whether the U.S. is at war with the Islamic State, backtracking on comments made last week.
Kerry previously told CBS News that “war is the wrong terminology” to describe the fight.
This was followed by the Pentagon and State Department saying that the U.S. is at war with ISIS.
Kerry was asked about his assessment Sunday for CBS’ Face the Nation.
“I think there’s, frankly, a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology,” Kerrys said. “What I’m focused on obviously is getting done what we need to get done to ISIL. But if people need find a place to land in terms of what we did in Iraq, originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground. It’s not hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not that kind of mobilization.”
“But in terms of al-Qaeda, which we have used the word war with, yes, we went — we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. And in same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL in that sense,” he continued. “But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that. Frankly, let’s consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL. And that’s what I’m frankly much more focused on.”
Kerry also sought to tamp down rumors that the U.S. would be coordinating its campaign with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
“We will certainly want to deconflict to make certain that they’re not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously,” he said. “But we’re not going to coordinate. It’s not a cooperative effort. We are going to do what they haven’t done, what they had plenty of opportunity to do, which is to take on ISIL and to degrade it and eliminate as a threat.”
On his travels to build a coalition, Kerry said he was “extremely encouraged to hear from all of the people that I have been meeting with about their readiness and willingness to participate.”
“I can tell you right here and now that we have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance, in actual strikes, if that is what it requires,” he added. “And we also have a growing number of people who are prepared to do all the other things. People shouldn’t think about this, this effort just in terms of strikes. In fact, as some have pointed out, that alone is not going to resolve this challenge.”
Kerry said some nations have offered to put boots on the ground.
“But we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway. The answer is, yes, there are some that have said that. There are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States, and to do airstrikes, if that’s what they’re called on to do,” he said.
“What we’re doing right now is putting together the whole package. And it’s not appropriate to start announcing, well, this country will do this, this country will do that.”