Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that he believes the U.S. is “absolutely” on the road to destroying ISIS, the terrorist group that has generated worldwide headlines for a series of brutal executions of Western hostages and its barbaric treatment of women, children and non-Muslims.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry said he believes “we are on the road to” defeating ISIS. “I absolutely do. And I think the evidence is not in my saying it. But it’s in the facts of what is happening.”
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, occupies a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. and a coalition of Arab and Western allies have been conducting airstrikes in ISIS territory since August of 2014.
Related: Stakes heighten in the Middle East
Kerry said that he has already seen signs of progress as a result of those actions: “The resounding reaffirmations of commitment throughout the Arab world have been heartening and strong … 22% of the populated areas that [ISIS] held have been taken back already. And that’s without launching what we would call a major offensive.”
“We have taken out a significant proportion of the top leadership of ISIS. Their command and control facilities have been attacked, interrupting their command and control. They no longer can communicate the way they were, as openly. They no longer travel in convoys, as they were, as openly,” Kerry said.
He admitted, however, that the battle is far from over, and there remains “a lot more to do.”
“We have said, since the beginning, this is a long-term operation, not a short-term one. But we believe everything, including the governing process in Iraq itself, is moving in the right direction.”
Last week, ISIS claimed that an American aid worker who was still held captive by ISIS, Kayla Mueller, had been killed by a Jordanian airstrike. However, Kerry emphasized that U.S. officials have not yet been able to confirm if ISIS’s claims about Mueller are true.
ISIS has become notorious for tactics so brutal that President Obama has described the group as “a brutal, vicious death cult.” Since 2014, the terror group has publicly executed several Westerners that the group has taken hostage, including two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff; two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning, American aid worker Peter Kassig, and Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
Though the interview focused primarily on foreign policy, moderator Chuck Todd also brought up the 2016 election cycle, which is beginning to heat up. As the next election nears, Kerry’s term as secretary of state is also nearing its end – but the former senator and 2004 presidential candidate was quick to bat away questions about whether he would consider another bid for the White House in 2016.
“I have no scenario whatsoever in my mind. I haven’t thought about it. As you can tell, pretty busy,” Kerry responded.
When pressed by Todd to say if he would never run for president again, Kerry admitted: “Well, nobody says never. But I mean, I have no concept of it.”
Watch the full interview below.