Interview With CBS's Vladimir Duthiers

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Brussels, Belgium
March 25, 2016

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for doing this. I want to ask you, the State Department issued a warning for Europe saying, “Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks in the region.” Is this the new normal in Europe?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. It’s the aberration for the period of time that Daesh continues to menace the world. But I am confident we are going to destroy Daesh and we will eliminate this threat over a period of time.

QUESTION: You say that you’re confident that we will destroy Daesh, but there’s growing evidence that ISIS has a wide network of cells throughout Europe. So how can you say that we’re winning the fight against ISIS if they’ve been able to strike western Europe in the last four months?

SECRETARY KERRY: Because we are winning. The fact that you can strike by sending a couple of would-be suicide or – people into an airport and blow up a bomb does not indicate that they’re winning. It means they have just struck a horrible blow and been willing to take lives with them. But as they disappear, either by blowing themselves us or by us killing them in various places of the world where we are taking them on, they’re going to disappear. The fact is, over a period of time, we are winnowing out their capacity to promote these attacks, to send people to these places, because there’s huge pressure being put on them in Iraq and in Syria itself.

They have not taken and held a community since last May when they first started moving across Iraq. We have consistently liberated communities, Tikrit, Kobani, Shaddadi, Ramadi, with the Iraqis and others, and 40 percent of the territory that Daesh held has been taken back. Their leadership is being taken apart. Their revenue is being cut significantly. They’ve had to cut their fighters’ pay. So what you’re seeing are desperation, lash-out events, and we are going to do our utmost to prevent those from happening, obviously working with police around the world. But it’s – I think everybody understands that the police and the law enforcement community and the intelligence community have to be successful 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to have nothing happen. A terrorist has to be successful for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour to get where they’re going and blow themselves up. So it’s not simple. But I believe, and I am confident when I say to you, I believe Daesh is under enormous pressure, and over a period of time Daesh is going to be destroyed.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about the reports that two of the bombers were known to authorities before the attack here in Brussels. One was arrested and deported by Turkey after trying to sneak into Syria. You’re here to talk counter-terrorism efforts with the EU. What will it take for European intelligence agencies to share information so that they can carry out the mission that you’ve just stated?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they need to pass a law in Europe that allows the passenger name records system to be put in place, and they need to pass a law with respect to screening on – early screening of passengers through that kind of system. I understand that law is currently in front of the European parliament. It may be taken up as early as next week. So that would help.

In addition, they need to deal with some of the challenges that we first faced immediately after 9/11. We realized that we had a stove-piping and compartmentalization to some degree. That’s one of the reasons why we had our Director of National Intelligence position created. It was in reaction to our own needs that we became more aware of as a result of 9/11.

So I think Europe is moving. It needs to – obviously, I think this will galvanize it, hopefully, to some degree. And if they will put some of those measures in place, it will be helpful.

QUESTION: You say that ISIS, Daesh, is on the run in Syria in Iraq, but there are reports that they may be growing in influence in, for example, Libya. What are we doing about that? There are reports that they’re growing in influence in Afghanistan. So if we’re getting them in one area but then they pop up in another region, what do we do?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re doing that purposefully. The way they’re popping up is by affiliating. They find a terrorist group that already exists in another area, and they sort of franchise it, so to speak. And then that group becomes Daesh. It doesn’t mean that there are a whole bunch of new people; it means there are people who are willing to associate themselves with Daesh. And when they have, we’ve gone after them and they’ve become targets. And that is exactly what is happening in Libya. A hundred and fifty of their recruits were just taken out in an action a week or so – two weeks ago, and the President has directed that there will be a significant focus on Daesh in Libya also.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. Appreciate it, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, good to be with you.

QUESTION: Good to be with you. Thank you.