Washington, D.C.–The Pentagon press secretary refused to explicitly say whether the United States-led coalition is winning or losing the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Talking to reporters in the Pentagon on October 15, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Department of Defense spokesman, was asked to comment on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) assessment last weekend that the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL) is winning against the U.S.-led coalition.
That elicited a fairly long and wordy response from the Pentagon press secretary.
“I’m not going to qualify who’s winning or who’s losing today,” said Kirby in responding. “The strategy is still sound, but you don’t judge the success of a strategy based on a day or a week or even several weeks.”
“It’s going to be a long fight. It’s going to be difficult. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be wins, and there’s going to be losses,” he added.
“We’re mindful of the complicated nature of this. And we’re also very mindful of the fact that…military action is not going to be decisive in and of itself,” also said the Pentagon spokesman.
Kirby indicated that the fight against IS militants is going to take years. Given that airstrikes started on August 8, it is too early “to make a decisive, you know, statement that we’re winning or losing,” he said.
“There are areas where we are having success. We have definitely made it harder for ISIL to sustain itself and to operate,” explained Kirby.
He said the reason IS is going after the strategic Syrian town of Kobane on the country’s border with Turkey is because they need a victory, adding, “They’re not getting a win everywhere.”
“They are getting pressured inside Iraq,” he added. “The Iraqi security forces are stiffening themselves around Baghdad, and Baghdad remains secure.”
“From a military perspective, it does no one any service to try to, you know, make a call on any given day,” he later added.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union last Sunday, McCain said Islamic State militants were winning and the American-led coalition was not.
“You need more boots on the ground in the form of forward air controllers, special forces and other people like that,” he added.
McCain also said, “You have to go after ISIS and Bashar Al-Assad, There’s no boundary between Syria and Iraq.”