State Dep't: 'We Cannot Kill Our Way Out of This War'

Susan Jones | February 17, 2015 | 5:49am EST
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State Department Deputy Spokesman Marie Harf (AP File Photo)

( - The U.S.-led coalition assembled to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is killing "a lot" of terrorists, but "we cannot win this fight by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war," a U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday night.

"Right now, what we're doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told the "Hardball" program with Chris Matthews.

"We're killing a lot of them. And we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians; they're in this fight with us. But we cannot win this fight by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war.

"We need, in the...medium and longer term, to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it's lack of opportunity for jobs..."

But there will always be poor Muslims, Matthews interrupted.

"We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance; we can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people," Harf responded.

"You're right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and combating violent extremism. But if we can help countries work at the root causes of this -- what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business -- maybe we can try to chip away at this problem....while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL in Iraq in Syria and helping our partners around the world..."

Harf said winning the war means stopping the underlying causes of extremism, and she pointed to Libya, now a lawless, failed state after President Obama's intervened with air strikes to depose Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi:

"In a place like Libya, the fact that there's no governance and there's no opportunity for young people, it lets groups like ISIL grow there and flourish there, which is what you saw with this awful situation with these Egyptians that you just mentioned. But this is a longer fight -- it's fighting them on social media, like you just said, these videos they produce are Very technical; they're using social media to get converts to their cause and to spread their hatred all over the world.

Harf said Americans should tell their elected leaders to support Obama's authorization for the use of military force.

House Speaker John Boehner has promised a full debate on Obama's AUMF, which doesn't go far enough, in Boehner's opinion:

"The president is asking for less authority than he has today under previous authorizations. I don't think that's smart," Boehner told Fox News Sunday.

"I've always believed that we should give the authority to the president to win the battles that we need to win. And I don't believe that the authorization the president asked for will give him the tools he needs to defeat ISIL. I know he says, well, the threat is being diminished. Well, the fact is ISIL continues to gain new territory."

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