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White House: U.S. "Is At War With" ISIS Same Way We Are With Al-Qaeda

John Kerry opted to call the mission a "very significant counter-terrorism" mission instead.

Posted on September 12, 2014, at 3:02 p.m. ET

The White House says the United States is at war with ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria in the same way we are at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. White House press secretary Josh Earnest made the comments Friday in his daily press briefing.

"This is not a situation where it is the United States versus ISIL," Earnest said. "The fact is ISIL has indicated that they're ready to go to war against the world. And this president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up to lead an international coalition to confront that threat and to deny ISIL a safe haven. And ultimately this international coalition will be responsible for degrading and destroying ISIL."

Earnest said the United States was "at war" with ISIS, comparing it to our strategy with al-Qaeda and its global affiliates.

"So I think what you could conclude from this is the United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates all around the globe," Earnest added.

The comments echoed comments earlier Friday from Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

"But make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL, in the same way we are at war, and continue to be at war, with al-Qaeda and its affiliates," said Kirby.

The comments contrast those of Secretary of State John Kerry who declined Thursday to directly call the U.S. campaign against ISIS a war.

"What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation," Kerry told CNN. "It's going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.