The White House is insisting the U.S. is not at war with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, despite an aggressive air campaign and previously labelling the jihadist group an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”
“Before getting into the strategy, though, there seems [to be] a fundamental, existential question: Is the United States presently at war with ISIS — yes or no?” MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, White House press secretary Josh Earnest, on Thursday.
Earnest went with “no.”
“No, Chris. What we are doing is we are working very aggressively with international partners, with Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, to take the steps necessary to mitigate the threat that’s posed by ISIL,” he responded.
The interview was part of a series of television appearances for Earnest on Thursday and Friday after Obama stumbled and said “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State in Syria. Earnest insisted Obama actually has a “comprehensive strategy” even as critics slam the administration for not articulating a more forceful foreign-policy vision for the region.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Friday, Earnest was again pressed with the “war” question.
“Does the president agree with [columnist] Eugene Robinson that we are, in fact, at war with ISIS even though it’s not a declared war?” host Joe Scarborough inquired.
Earnest again maintained the U.S. was simply trying to “mitigate the threat.”
“I think what the president would say is it’s very important that we take the necessary steps to mitigate the threat that ISIL poses to the United States of America,” he said.
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