In a statement that may seem inconsistent with the latest unsettling developments in the Middle East, ABC's news program This Week on Sunday saw Secretary of State John Kerry insist that the U.S. is defeating ISIS, even though reports regarding the militant group's most recent actions might indicate otherwise.
When correspondent Martha Raddatz pointed to The New York Times' report on ISIS' destruction of ancient artifacts just in the past week (Times reporter Anne Barnard likened it to a "rampage reminiscent of Tamerlane or Genghis Khan"), contrasting it with Kerry's recent comments regarding the fight against ISIS, he said:
What I said was we're on the road to success, and that begins in Iraq. And yes, I stand by it. We are growing in capacity on the ground, Martha. Each time the Iraqis have now gone forward in an offensive effort, together with allies, the coalition, we have routed [ISIS].
However, Kerry conceded that the situation in Syria — still in the midst of a bloody, complicated civil war now close to its fourth year — presented a more difficult battle. He pointed to the U.S.' Middle Eastern allies and said:
Now Syria is a different matter. Syria is a bigger challenge. We will need people on the ground, but it will not be American forces... There is training and equipping of the opposition that begins this month.
Kerry's statements were in defense of his claims earlier last week in Congress that globally, violent conflict is at its lowest point in history — a dramatically contradictory statement to that of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's a day later that 2014 was the "most lethal year for global terrorism" since the beginning of such data complication 45 years ago. The Secretary of State had told the House Appropriations Subcommittee:
It is counterintuitive, but the truth is that notwithstanding the threat of [ISIS], notwithstanding people being beheaded publicly and burned publicly and the atrocities that they are perpetrating — and it is a serious, serious challenge to us. Notwithstanding that, there is actually less threat and less probability of people dying in some sort of violent conflict today than at any time in human history.
But when questioned by Raddatz, Kerry explained that although overall, the world was less affected by violent conflict now than in the past hundred years, Clapper's statement was important for highlighting ISIS' grave threat. He said:
I still stand by what I said, which is in long terms, compared to the last century, there are, in fact, fewer people dying of the means -- that you look at, by state war, violence, health, etc. But that's not what's important. What's important right now is what James Clapper said. There is an uptick in the level of terrorism and specific incidents of people being killed. And that threat is very, very real. Nobody is trying to minimize it.
Infamous for its executions, in February alone, ISIS beheaded two Japanese citizens, brutally burned to death Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh in a cage, and mass beheaded 21 Coptic Christians. But despite the group's continuous spate of violence, Kerry expressed confidence in defeating ISIS:
There's a great deal of energy and effort being put into [the fight against ISIS]. And I am confident that over time, we will beat — we will indeed, ultimately, degrade and destroy [ISIS].
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