Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski Thursday morning he agreed with French President Francois Hollande; there is an ongoing war with the Islamic State.
"So you agree with the French president we're at war?" Scarborough asked Carter.
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"Yeah, I think Francois Hollande has said it very well," Carter said. "I’m glad the French are galvanized in joining the fight now."
Carter’s blunt talk contrasts with President Obama’s rhetoric, who referred to the massacre in Paris that killed over 130 people in a series of coordinated attacks a "setback."
"We have to defeat ISIL. We will defeat ISIL," Carter said. You see the barbarism associated with this. It is something that must be defeated."
When confronted about complaints from the Pentagon the administration is tying their hands with strict rules of engagement, Carter left the door open to loosening the conditions within which U.S. forces may operate in Syria and Iraq.
"We're prepared to do that. We have reviewed – we review them all the time. Actually, if you look at the data, the thing that most enhances the impact of the air campaign is better and better intelligence," Carter said. "We're prepared to change the rules of engagement. We've changed tactics as we just did in the case of the fuel trucks."
In the second part of his interview with the Morning Joe co-hosts, Carter reiterated the administration’s position that it would be unable to work with Russia until they committed to a political transition away from the Assad regime. He said the Russians "got off on the wrong foot" in Syria and their strategy is "doomed to fail." The Defense Secretary encouraged the focus of both countries to be on fighting ISIS.
"It has to include defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria, that's the beating heart. That is the parent tumor of this thing called ISIL," he said.
Carter suggested President Obama may be willing to "do more" on the ground in Iraq and Syria.