Secretary of state John Kerry said the United States is not actually at war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, explaining instead that “what we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation.”
In an interview in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Kerry pushed back against CNN reporter Elise Labott’s characterization of the conflict between the Islamic State and the United States as a “war.”
“Is the United States at war with ISIS?” she asked. “Because it sure sounds, from the president’s speech, that we are.”
“I think that’s the wrong terminology,” Kerry said. “What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation. And 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,” the secretary continued. “But the fact is, it’s a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts.”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper seemed unconvinced by Kerry’s ambiguous wording. “Dropping bombs on a sovereign nation and offering to arm and train rebels who not only oppose ISIS, but oppose the regime that ostensibly rules Syria — to some people, that might sound a lot like war,” he said skeptically.
The secretary of state’s caveat comes just hours after President Obama announced an expanded air campaign to “degrade, and ultimately destroy,” jihadists fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.