President Barack Obama back-peddled once again Sunday night, refusing to refer to the military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a “war” and, all the while, pushing back against prominent White House officials who have stated that the U.S. is indeed at war with the terrorist organization.
In an interview with Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes,” Obama laid out the current state of American intervention in the Middle East, saying that America is “assisting Iraq in a very real battle that’s taking place on their soil, with their troops.”
He also added that America is providing air support to the cause.
“This is not America against ISIL,” Obama told Kroft. “This is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership with; to make sure that they are able to take care of their business.”
In recent interviews, Secretary of State John Kerry and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough have both said America currently is at war with ISIS, a description at odds with Obama in what seems to be an ever-changing war over talking points.
Obama also told the veteran journalist that while this is a “significant” moment of his presidency, it is not the most arduous issue he has faced.
Rather, Obama pointed to the beginning of his first term, saying that the recession while being involved in two wars was more difficult.
In perhaps the most telling part of the interview, the president admitted the U.S. completely underestimated the threat ISIS posed to the nation, while also echoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s point-of-view that America had also overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to combat the barbaric terrorist group.
“That’s absolutely true,” Obama said.
“This is one of the challenges we’re going to have generally, when you have states that are failing or in the midst of civil war. These kinds of organizations thrive,” he told Kroft.
Obama was swift to mention the action the U.S. is getting into is not a “permanent war footing.” He told the “60 Minutes” host it will not be action akin to the past decade’s during the War on Terror which involved massive occupations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I distinguished … between counterterrorism and the sort of occupying armies that characterized the Iraq and Afghan War,” he told Kroft. “That’s very different from us having 150,000 troops in Iraq on the ground or 60,000 in Afghanistan.”