Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the United States’ allies in the Middle East remain on course to defeat ISIS – though he acknowledged the challenge in Syria is a particularly difficult one.
“Each time the Iraqis have now gone forward in an offensive effort, together with allies, the coalition, we have routed ISIL,” Kerry said, using an alternate name for the group, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
He said opponents of the group have regained “a fixed, significant percentage” of the ground that the group had taken.
“Now Syria is a different matter. Syria is a bigger challenge. We will need people on the ground,” Kerry said.
He said U.S. forces won’t be on the ground there, but “there’s training and equipping of the opposition that begins this month,” and Arab countries in the region are stepping up their efforts. Kerry also said he’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman soon.
“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,” he said.
Kerry also addressed what appeared last week to be a major conflict with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in testimony the two gave on Capitol Hill.
Clapper had said terror attacks had reached their highest level ever in 2014 – but Kerry had said the world is in a historically non-violent period. He explained Sunday that he was talking about much broader measurements than Clapper.
“I still stand by what I said, which is in long terms, compared to the last century, there are, in fact, fewer people dying of the means – that you look at, by state war, violence, health, etc.,” Kerry said.
“But that’s not what’s important,” he said. “What’s important right now is what James Clapper said. There is an uptick in the level of terrorism and specific incidents of people being killed. And that threat is very, very real. Nobody is trying to minimize it. President Obama has put together a coalition of countries that have come together. We’re all super focused on this. And we are focused on the Internet cyberspace battle also.”