Kerry: ISIS 'is on the run' despite recent terror attacks
July 17th, 2016
11:49 AM ET

Kerry: ISIS 'is on the run' despite recent terror attacks

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Secretary of State John Kerry ,joined anchor, Jake Tapper to discuss the recent attack in Nice, if the US had intelligence of the coup in Turkey before it happened, the latest on the fight against ISIS and more.

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.

 

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

Contacts: Lauren Pratapas — Lauren.Pratapas@turner.com; 202.465.6666; Brooke Lorenz-[Brooke.Lorenz@turner.com]Brooke.Lorenz@turner.com

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Kerry: We have ISIS on the run

 

CNN STORY

Kerry: ISIS 'is on the run' despite recent terror attacks

 

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Kerry on the fight against ISIS: What we believe this indicates, however, is that Da'esh, ISIL, in Syria and Iraq is under great, great pressure.  And people are acting out in various places.  But they are not growing in their ability to do things.  They are shrinking.  We have taken back 40 percent, 45 percent of the territory they held in Iraq.  We're squeezing town after town.  We have liberated communities.  We're making progress now advancing on Mosul.  In Syria, likewise, they're not able to attack and hold towns.  They are on the run. And I believe what we're seeing are the desperate actions of an entity that sees the noose closing around it.

 

Kerry if ISIS had a role in the attack in Nice: [TAPPER]...Does the U.S. have any intelligence to back up this claim by ISIS that it, at the very least, inspired the attack? [KERRY]  Well, there is public information that has been leaking out from France from the investigation itself regarding a - quote - "very rapid period of radicalization."We know, obviously, what everybody now knows publicly, that he was a Tunisian who was given permission to live in France.  But we have - we had no knowledge of him as a radicalized individual.  And, at this point in time, we're waiting for the investigators, and we're helping the investigation in any way that is possible. Our hearts go out to everybody in France.  This is the third major terrorist attack in France.  It's very, very difficult for the French people.  We understand that.  There are 85 people in the hospital now, 20-plus in the intensive care unit. So, we are working with the French to try to put the pieces together, but, you know, this is one of those things, Jake, it's worse than the needle in a haystack.  If you have no indications of somebody, and you don't have any track record of radicalization, and, all of a sudden, over a week or in some period, somebody with apparent mental problems anyway decides to go do great harm to people, it is not hard to do that.And governments and law enforcement have to be able to get this right every hour, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  If you're a terrorist, and particularly of - of, you know, one or two days' vintage, you can just go out and do something very easily.

 

Kerry on if the United States would extradite Fethullah Gulen: [TAPPER]  As you know, on Saturday, the president of Turkey, Erdogan, demanded that the U.S. arrest or hand over one of his enemies, Fethullah Gulen, the person he is holding responsible for this coup, who is living in self-imposed exile in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Is the U.S. going to comply with this demand for extradition?  [KERRY]  Well, first of all, we have not had a formal request for extradition.  That has to come in a formal package.It has to come with documentation for the request and go to the Justice Department.  And we will deal with it.  I made it very, very clear to the foreign minister of Turkey yesterday, the United States is not harboring anybody.  We're not preventing anything from happening.  We have never had a formal request for extradition, and we have always said, give us the evidence.  Show us the evidence.  We need a solid, legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition in order for our courts to approve such a request.  So, we're waiting for that.  They tell us they are putting it together and will send it to us.  But we think it's irresponsible to have accusations of American involvement, when we're simply waiting for their request, which we're absolutely prepared to act on if it meets the legal standard.

 

Kerry on if the U.S. had any intelligence that the coup was going to happen:  I don't think anybody's intelligence had information, particularly the Turkish intelligence.  The answer is no.  This is - the nature of a coup, you rarely have indicators that something's about to happen.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST:  I'm Jake Tapper, live in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, where the state of our union today is, frankly, in turmoil.

 

With the major security event about to get under way here, the global landscape is quite turbulent.  Eighteen people are hovering between life and death in France after that deadly attack in the coastal city of Nice that killed 84 other innocent people.  French officials now saying that the man who murdered them all texted an unknown recipient just before the attack, saying - quote - "Bring more weapons.  Bring to C" - unquote.

 

Four of his associates were arrested over the weekend, this while Turkey is roiling after a violent and confusing weekend.  Turkish President Erdogan saying he is back in control after an attempt to overthrow his government in the middle of the night.

 

He claims his rival Fethullah Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania masterminded the entire thing.  He says that without preventing any evidence of what now he's demanding, that President Obama turn him over.

 

Gulen responded by suggesting that the coup may have been staged by Erdogan himself.  It is a messy situation in a country that is a vital U.S. ally in the war against ISIS.

 

And joining me now is Secretary of State John Kerry, who is Luxembourg, on his way to Brussels.

 

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

 

Let's start with the attempted coup in Turkey.  More than 200 people have been killed since the uprising began.  Operations at the U.S. air base have been halted.  Power's been cut.  Our troops there are operating off of military generators.  Five military facilities in Turkey have been placed at the highest alert level.

 

This seems to show a huge level of disrespect.  Who is responsible for this?  Is it Erdogan?

 

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Jake, we don't have all the details of what has happened with respect to the coup.

 

What we do know is this.  I talked three times yesterday with the foreign minister of Turkey.  They assure me that there will be no interruption of our counter-ISIL efforts.  It is a fact that there were difficulties at Incirlik.

 

But, apparently, there may have been some refueling that took place with the Turkish air force with planes that were flying in the coup itself.  And I think that has something to do with what's taken place there.  It's not focused on us.

 

They have absolutely assured us of their commitment to the fight against Da'esh.  Their foreign minister will be coming to Washington with their defense minister in three days for a major conference that we have with 45 countries, foreign ministers, defense ministers, to keep pushing forward on the strategy against Da'esh.

 

So, Jake, I expect that operations will get back to normal very quickly.  But we don't know the details of the coup.  And I think the Turkish government itself is trying to figure out the full measure of who was involved and how.

 

TAPPER:  Has this affected the fight against ISIS, or, as you call it, Da'esh?

 

KERRY:  No, it has not.

 

According to our commanders, there might have been a minor delay here or there or something, but it has not affected the fundamental direction or commitment to the fight.

 

TAPPER:  As you know, on Saturday, the president of Turkey, Erdogan, demanded that the U.S. arrest or hand over one of his enemies, Fethullah Gulen, the person he is holding responsible for this coup, who is living in self-imposed exile in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

 

Is the U.S. going to comply with this demand for extradition?

 

KERRY:  Well, first of all, we have not had a formal request for extradition.  That has to come in a formal package.

 

It has to come with documentation for the request and go to the Justice Department.  And we will deal with it.  I made it very, very clear to the foreign minister of Turkey yesterday, the United States is not harboring anybody.  We're not preventing anything from happening.

 

We have never had a formal request for extradition, and we have always said, give us the evidence.  Show us the evidence.  We need a solid, legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition in order for our courts to approve such a request.

 

So, we're waiting for that.  They tell us they are putting it together and will send it to us.  But we think it's irresponsible to have accusations of American involvement, when we're simply waiting for their request, which we're absolutely prepared to act on if it meets the legal standard.

 

TAPPER:  Did U.S. intelligence have any idea that this attempted coup was about to happen?

 

KERRY:  I don't think anybody's intelligence had information, particularly the Turkish intelligence.  The answer is no.

 

This is - the nature of a coup, you rarely have indicators that something's about to happen.

 

TAPPER:  Let's turn now, if we can, sir, to the terrorist attack in Nice on Saturday.  ISIS claimed responsibility for inspiring that horrific truck attack that killed 84 people, wounding more than 200.

 

Does the U.S. have any intelligence to back up this claim by ISIS that it, at the very least, inspired the attack?

 

KERRY:  Well, there is public information that has been leaking out from France from the investigation itself regarding a - quote - "very rapid period of radicalization."

 

We know, obviously, what everybody now knows publicly, that he was a Tunisian who was given permission to live in France.  But we have - we had no knowledge of him as a radicalized individual.  And, at this point in time, we're waiting for the investigators, and we're helping the investigation in any way that is possible.

 

Our hearts go out to everybody in France.  This is the third major terrorist attack in France.  It's very, very difficult for the French people.  We understand that.  There are 85 people in the hospital now, 20-plus in the intensive care unit.

 

So, we are working with the French to try to put the pieces together, but, you know, this is one of those things, Jake, it's worse than the needle in a haystack.  If you have no indications of somebody, and you don't have any track record of radicalization, and, all of a sudden, over a week or in some period, somebody with apparent mental problems anyway decides to go do great harm to people, it is not hard to do that.

 

And governments and law enforcement have to be able to get this right every hour, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  If you're a terrorist, and particularly of - of, you know, one or two days' vintage, you can just go out and do something very easily.

 

What we believe this indicates, however, is that Da'esh, ISIL, in Syria and Iraq is under great, great pressure.  And people are acting out in various places.  But they are not growing in their ability to do things.  They are shrinking.

 

We have taken back 40 percent, 45 percent of the territory they held in Iraq.  We're squeezing town after town.  We have liberated communities.  We're making progress now advancing on Mosul.  In Syria, likewise, they're not able to attack and hold towns.  They are on the run.

 

And I believe what we're seeing are the desperate actions of an entity that sees the noose closing around it.

 

TAPPER:  Well, with all due respect, sir, I'm not sure that it looks that way to the public, that ISIS is on the run.  In just the last few weeks, we have seen...

 

KERRY:  Well, obviously.

 

TAPPER:  ... a series of ISIS-inspired attacks, 49 killed in Orlando, 45 killed in Istanbul at the airport, more than 200 killed in Baghdad, 84 in Nice.

 

This is just the last five weeks.  I don't think ISIS is on the run.  They might be expanding.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

KERRY:  Well, Jake, it depends on where you mean ISIS.

 

I don't know if this guy was actually ISIS, and nor do you.  And we don't know that the guy in Orlando was fundamentally ISIS, nor even told what to do by ISIS.

 

If people are inspired, they're inspired.  But ISIL, which is based in Iraq and Syria, is under huge pressure.  And that is just a fact.  Now, there are thousands of fighters, some of whom left the area of the fighting years ago.  And they are sitting in some community somewhere in the world.

 

And if you're saying that one person standing up one day and killing people is a reflection of ISIS moving in Iraq and Syria, I think you're dead wrong.

 

Now, are - is it capable for people to be inspired by them and go out and do great harm to people?  I said that.  I acknowledge that.  Yes, there is that danger.

 

But the core of ISIS is in Al-Raqqa, and it's in Manbij.  It's in Syria.  It's in Iraq.  And we are doing everything in our power to put additional pressure them.  And I believe their days are numbered.

 

TAPPER:  You are doing everything you can do?

 

I mean, I think there are a lot of people in the United States, in the Pentagon, in the national security apparatus who have a number of suggestions as to what more could be done to put pressure and to eliminate the threat of ISIS.

 

KERRY:  Correct.  And we - a lot of people have talked about American troops going in, et cetera.

 

Congress displayed absolutely zero willingness to vote to do that.  And if people have a willingness to show that now that has changed, the administration will listen to any legitimate plan, any legitimate way to do more.

 

But I believe that the pressure is mounting on a steady basis, with more and more being done on a consistent basis.  And we welcome additional thoughts from members of Congress, from anybody in the intel community, in the defense community who knows or suggests.  President Obama is open to any legitimate ways of moving faster that meets the test of our security needs and of what the Congress is willing to support.

 

TAPPER:  Mr. Secretary, I'm being told that you have to go, that you have a meeting with the prime minister.

 

We always appreciate your time.  Thank you so much.  And good luck out there, sir.

 

KERRY:  Thank you.  Thank you, Jake.  Appreciate it.

 

###END INTERVIEW###

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