WH: 'We are at war' with ISIS

 

The United States is at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), the White House and Pentagon said Friday, a day after Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryMcCain, Graham mock Kerry's threat to end talks with Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report Kerry threatens to end Syria talks with Russia MORE repeatedly declined to use that phrase.

“In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that while the effort was "not the Iraq war," they should "make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL."

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Earnest said that it was important to distinguish that this was "different than the strategies previously pursued in Iraq" and that by "we," he meant a "broader international coalition" that was fighting the terrorist organization. Earnest also said that the strategy for handling ISIS was "consistent with the counterterrorism strategy we've pursued in cases all around the world."

"This president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up to lead an international coalition to confront that threat and to deny ISIL a safe haven. And ultimately, this international coalition will be responsible for degrading and destroying ISIL," he said.

In a series of interviews on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly rejected characterizations of the U.S. efforts against ISIS as war.

Kerry said the administration's plan to combat ISIS includes "many different things that one doesn't think of normally in context of war" during an interview with CNN.

"What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation," Kerry continued. "It's going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."

In a separate interview with CBS News, Kerry also rejected the word "war" to describe the U.S. effort and encouraged the public not to "get into war fever" over the conflict.

"We're engaged in a major counterterrorism operation, and it's going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity," Kerry told the network.

"I don't think people need to get into war fever on this. I think they have to view it as a heightened level of counter terrorist activity ... but it's not dissimilar similar to what we've been doing the last few years with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in Yemen and elsewhere," Kerry said.