Secretary of State John Kerry insists the U.S. is on its way to success in the effort to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. His comments were in stark contrast to the dire warnings issued last week from National Security Director James Clapper, as well as increasingly grim reports coming from the region.
During an interview on ABC’s This Week that aired Sunday morning, Kerry described a more optimistic outlook of the U.S.’s fight against ISIS than Pentagon officials have indicated.
“We’re growing in the capacity on the ground,” Kerry said. He also acknowledged that while progress is being made in Iraq, Syria is proving more challenging.
“Each time the Iraqis have now gone forward in an offensive effort, together with allies, the coalition, we have routed ISIL,” Kerry said. “In Iraq, they have gained back a significant percentage of the area that ISIL is controlling.”
His statements came weeks after the White House sent a war authorization to Congress that includes a three-year Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). It has been criticized by Republicans who say President Obama’s request doesn’t go far enough to destroy ISIS, since it limits the use of forces on the ground.
House Speaker John Boehner said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday morning that U.S. boots will have to be on the ground in order to defeat the vicious terror group. “Somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” he said.
However, the White House has distanced itself from advocating for the use of ground troops – fearing mission creep. Instead, it’s relying on airstrikes and building up Iraqi forces to defeat ISIS, which Kerry contends is working so far.
“There’s a great deal of energy and effort being put into this and I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, yes,” Kerry said.
Last week Clapper told Congress that in 2014, terror attacks reached their highest level since the Pentagon has tracked them. The majority of the attacks have come from ISIS.
Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that airstrikes and Iraqi forces have weakened ISIS but that the group remains a “formidable and brutal threat” as it tries to spread its ideology across the world. It wants to “create both the substance and maybe more importantly the image of this global-scale caliphate.”
Separately, the FBI’s top counterterrorism official, Michael Steinbach, told lawmakers last week the U.S. is losing the fight against ISIS online.
The group, Steinbach said, “has proved dangerously competent at employing online tools for its nefarious strategy.” That strategy includes sharing videos of beheadings and violent executions of its hostage across the Internet.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: