President Barack Obama’s “biggest and most dangerous mistake” in Iraq was “not looking for the war,” his top national security adviser told lawmakers Tuesday.
“There is no real appetite for that,” Susan Rice said.
She said the president’s foreign policy team, including national security advisor Ben Rhodes and national security council staff, were focused on the fight against ISIL and Afghanistan.
“We are focused on winning that war,” Rice said at a Capitol Hill hearing.
“But it is not going to be an easy war.”
Obama was elected in 2008 with a promise to end the war in Iraq, which he had previously said was over.
The U.S. and its allies have been fighting ISIL and other terrorist groups since 2014, with more than 8,500 American and coalition troops killed.
The White House said Monday that it was reviewing the war review with a view to revising it.
The president, who has made clear he wants to see a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, has said he wants the war ended as soon as possible, but has made it clear he will not accept a timetable that would allow the U.N. Security Council to take over a peacekeeping mission or allow the international coalition to conduct airstrikes on ISIS positions.
“If I don’t see a way to resolve this by the end of the year, I will not negotiate,” Rice told lawmakers.
“This is not about a timetable.
This is not a war of attrition.”
Rice’s remarks came as the president was speaking to the nation in a series of public events that were not limited to the national security review.
In his address to the joint session of Congress, Obama reiterated his commitment to the coalition fighting ISIL, but warned that the international forces needed to be given “time and opportunity” to stabilize the country.
“The war in Syria and Iraq is no longer just a fight against ISIS, it is also about defeating the Assad regime and its regional allies, Iran and Russia, who have continued to support ISIL, even as they have attacked us,” he said.
“And I want to be clear: The United States and our allies must have the same resolve to defeat ISIL that we have for our other global challenges: climate change, the threat of nuclear weapons, global pandemics, cyberattacks, the spread of deadly infectious diseases, and pandemic influenza.”
The president has been criticized by some Republicans for not taking the fight to the Islamic State group.
A new poll released Monday by Morning Consult shows his approval rating at 32 percent, with 40 percent disapproving.
That compares with an approval rating of just 13 percent for Trump, who left office in January.
Rice said the White House was not looking to take military action in Syria at this point.
“What we have to do is find a political solution, which requires a clear timetable,” she said.