U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that the recent wave of terrorist attacks linked to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) suggest that the jihadist group is “on the run” in Iraq and Syria.
His comments came in reaction to the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, that left 84 people dead, including 10 children, and at least another 202 wounded. ISIS has taken responsibility for the assault.
The Islamic State has also been affiliated with various attacks that occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (June 5 through July 5), including the Orlando, Florida, massacre and some attacks in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of people were killed and injured during that period.
Nevertheless, the secretary of State downplayed the attacks, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union they are not a reflection of the group’s strength in their home base of Iraq and Syria.
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He described the attacks as “the desperate actions of an enemy that sees the noose closing around them.”
Citing the recent wave of attacks connected to the jihadist group, Tapper immediately challenged Kerry on the claim that ISIS “is on the run,” telling the top U.S. diplomat:
With all due respect, sir, I’m not sure that it looks that way to the public, that ISIS is on the run. In just the last few weeks, we have seen a series of ISIS-inspired attacks… I don’t think ISIS is on the run.
If people are inspired, they are inspired, but ISIL, which is based in Iraq and Syria, is under huge pressure, and that’s a fact…
If you’re saying that one person standing up one day and killing people is an example of ISIS moving in Iraq and Syria, I think you’re dead wrong.
Reiterating what other Obama administration officials have been emphasizing in the last few weeks, Kerry said ISIS is “shrinking,” adding that the group has lost “40, 45 percent” of the territory it once held.
CNN reports, “Kerry’s comments about ISIS come as U.S. intelligence officials have said the terror group isn’t desperate, but is adapting.”
“ISIS is expected to continue going after so-called soft targets such as airports and shopping areas,” indicated the unnamed senior administration official, adding, “It’s not a sign of weakness or desperation. They are adapting in a different way.”
The Obama administration has repeatedly sought to deflect criticism of the president’s anti-terrorism record by portraying the escalating number of attacks as evidence that ISIS is losing.
On June 28, President Barack Obama’s envoy to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, Brett McGurk, suggested to lawmakers that ISIS has been significantly weakened, saying the jihadist group has lost territory, fighters, leaders, financial resources, and influence online.
His comments came as ISIS inspired terrorist attacks in Yemen, Lebanon, Turkey, and Malaysia on June 27 and 28, leading to the death of at least 93 people and the injury of another 290.
Echoing his recent comments, Kerry asserted that the June 28 ISIS-linked attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport proved the group was “desperate” and “know [they] are losing.”
McGurk acknowledged that ISIS has expanded to at least eight countries and regions, including Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sinai, Nigeria, Algeria, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan-Pakistan.
The envoy added that the terrorist group is trying to officially establish branches in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Somalia, where ISIS already has supporters.