By Kristina Wong - 09/03/14 09:19 AM EDT
The Pentagon on Wednesday sought to clear up confusion over whether the U.S. goal against terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was to "destroy" ISIS also referred to as ISIL, or manage it, after the president said he wanted to do both in a speech in Estonia.
However, he later added, "if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL's sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem."
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said later, "It's actually both. And I know that sounds a little bit strange to hear."
Kirby said the U.S. can militarily degrade, disrupt and destroy ISIS "targets" in Iraq but cannot militarily destroy ISIS itself.
"The only way you're going to destroy an organization like this is by defeating their ideology," he said. "You can bomb them every day, and you're not going to get rid of the ideology that allows them to fester and to continue to get resources and to grow, to train and to equip."
"There's got to be a broader-based strategy, and we're working on that right now," he added.
Kirby said the U.S. will seek to build an international coalition to go after ISIS in Iraq and Syria, when leaders meet with NATO allies on the sidelines at a summit later this week.
"We want partner nations to contribute what they are able and willing to contribute in whatever fashion they're willing to contribute it," he said.
"I will tell you we have been talking to the British, and we have been talking to the Australians. And I'm speaking now for the Pentagon, and we've been working with them very, very closely," he said.
"And Turkey is a key partner, a key ally in that part of the world, a neighbor of Iraq. It has really vested interests. And we're going to talk to them about their contributions as well," he said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday evening that he supported the president's goal of building an international coalition.
However, he said, the president still needed to articulate a strategy.
"To not have a goal and a strategy to implement those goals is not very appealing to anyone to join a coalition," he said.