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Obama Administration Says U.S. Is 'At War' With ISIS

Before Friday, the administration had avoided the terminology.
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The Obama administration said for the first time Friday that the United States is “at war” with ISIS militants.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, used the language at least three times during his daily briefing with reporters. “The U.S. is at war with ISIL in the same way the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

Minutes earlier, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, used similar terminology. “This is not the Iraq war of 2002,” he told reporters. “But, make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL, in the same way we are at war and continue to be at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Later in the afternoon, a State Department spokeswoman used almost the exact same language.

Before Friday, the administration — including President Barack Obama, in his national address Wednesday night — had avoided characterizing the fight against ISIS as a war. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry would not go as far.

Kerry said at the time: “I believe what we’re engaged in is not a full-fledged war like we were in before. It’s a heightened level of counterterrorism campaign, and it will have its own pace, its own dynamic, but it’s counterterrorism.”


— Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube and Erin McClam