- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2014

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the Obama administration has been “very clear” about its mission to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, despite accusations it’s playing semantic games to enshroud whether the U.S. is truly at war.

“Inasmuch as we’ve been at war with al Qaeda since the first days we got into this office, we obviously in a similar fashion are at war with ISIL,” he told “Fox News Sunday,” using a common acronym for the Islamic State.

President Obama last week announced a new strategy to beat back the Islamic extremists who have taken wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, including new airstrikes in conjunction with operations by foreign partners on the ground.

“This is not going to be like the Iraq war,” he said. “We’re not talking about tens of thousands of troops on the ground, but rather we’re talking about us using our unique capabilities of air power, of ISR — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — and supporting those on the ground who are fighting ISIL, including in Syria, the Syrian opposition that’s fighting ISIL right now.”

Mr. McDonough was interviewed Sunday in the wake of a third beheading by the Islamic extremists.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called the murder of David Haines, a 44-year-old aid worker, a “despicable and appalling” act. Earlier, the Islamic State released videos showing the beheadings of Americans journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Mr. Donough, facing questions about the White House’s warning to family members not to pay ransom for their loved ones, told Fox the administration didn’t threaten anyone but “made clear what the law is.”

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