WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States is "at war" with Islamic State militants, marking a shift from his insistence last week that America is not at war but engaged in a "very significant counterterrorism" operation.
Not that he thinks the wording matters much anyway.
"In terms of al Qaeda, which we have used the word 'war' with, yeah ... We are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates," Kerry said in a "Face the Nation" interview. "In the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we are at war with ISIL in that sense. But I think it's a waste of time to focus on that. Frankly, let's consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL ... That's what I'm frankly much more focused on."
Kerry suggested that the public and the media have spent too much time trying to define the U.S. military operation against the Islamic State, a terrorist group in Syria sometimes known as ISIS or ISIL. The main detail people should be focused on, said Kerry, is that President Barack Obama is not going to send combat troops to fight the militant organization.
"I think there's, frankly, a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology," said Kerry. The operation against the Islamic State will not include "combat troops on the ground," he said. "It's not that kind of mobilization."
The president is trying to build an international coalition to help combat the Islamic State, and nearly a dozen Arab countries, including Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have pledged their support. Kerry emphasized that these countries' military contributions will be key in taking down the terrorist group.
"People should not think about this effort just in terms of strikes," he said.