Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to describe the current undertaking against the Islamic State jihadist terror group as a “war,” instead opting to call it “a very significant counterterrorism operation” and emphasizing the involvement of the international community in the effort.
Kerry made the unusual pronouncement as he travels the world attempting to persuade nations, particularly those in the Middle East, to help the United States vanquish the Islamic State. The Secretary of State explained to CNN’s Elise Labott that “war” is, to him, too limited a term for the situation in which the United States currently finds itself, and that the operation consists of “many different things that one doesn’t think of normally in context of war.”
Instead, Kerry suggested, the endeavor is “a very significant counterterrorism operation” that will take “some period of time” and “have many different moving parts.” He heavily emphasized the need for an international coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
Kerry’s statements echoed the words of President Obama in his highly anticipated speech this past Wednesday, in which he outlined an offensive consisting of air strikes and diplomacy with neighboring countries to help establish an international effort against the terrorist group. “American power,” the President asserted in his speech, “can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing the region.”
To build that coalition, Secretary of State Kerry landed in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, Friday, where he is expected to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders to discuss operations against the Islamic State moving forward. Turkey, a NATO member nation, refused to allow the United States to use its air bases to launch attacks against the Islamic State. As Turkey shares what many consider a fairly open border with Syria, Westerners joining the Islamic State often fly to Turkey first to cross the border towards Aleppo and Iraq. What’s more, Turkish border towns often provide a willing market for Islamic State oil, which allows the terrorist group to fund its operations in the region.
Efforts against the Islamic State become more necessary every day, as its recruitment efforts have exhibited unprecedented success in the West among terrorist groups. The CIA announced Friday that allegedly between 20,000 and 31,000 people are active fighters within the Islamic State ranks, triple the number previously believed.