Clinton: U.S. "not winning" the fight against ISIS

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about the mass shooting in San Bernadino, California at a campaign stop at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, New Hampshire December 3, 2015.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the U.S. is "not winning" the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but added, "it's too soon to say that we are doing everything we need to do."

"We have to fight them in the air. We have to fight them on ground and we have to fight on the Internet. And we have to do everything we can with our friends and partners around the world to protect ourselves," Clinton said in an interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

She said she expects the U.S. will hear "an intensification of the existing strategy" against ISIS when President Obama addresses the nation Sunday evening. But Clinton said she believed a few "additional steps" are necessary.

She called for a "much more robust air campaign" against ISIS targets, including oil infrastructure and leadership. She also said the U.S. must do a better job of getting the Sunnis and Kurds in the region to fight ISIS on the ground.

When asked about a suggestion by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, to carpet bomb ISIS, Clinton said, "That's an easy thing to say, you know. He's never had any responsibility for trying to figure out who the bad guys are and who innocent civilians are."

She has consistently argued that American combat troops will not improve the situation in the region, but said that the U.S. should "up our special ops numbers" from the 50 that are headed to the region.

"Then we need to take stock of what else we need. I think the more than 3,000 Americans that we have on the ground in Iraq, who are advising, assisting and enabling the Iraqi military have to be given the flexibility and support they need," Clinton said. "And I believe strongly we should perhaps ask some of our current and retired military officers, who dealt with the Sunni sheikhs in Anbar and elsewhere to once again reconstitute the fighting force that they put into the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Clinton does not believe any of these steps require a fresh military authorization but still argued that Congress should vote on one because "It is important...for the Congress to vote on behalf of the American people and to make sure that we are updating it to take into account the new authorities that that risks."

Beyond the military fight, Clinton said, "We're going to need help from Facebook and from YouTube and from Twitter. They cannot permit the recruitment and the actual direction of attacks or the celebration of violence by this sophisticated Internet user," she said.

She is still holding back on offering her opinion on whether the government needs more access to encrypted communications in order to track the conversations of suspected terrorists. Instead, Clinton called on the "best minds" in the public and private sectors to "come together to help us deal with this evolving threat."

While some government officials warn that the rise in encrypted communications give terrorists ample ability to shield their planning from the intelligence community, tech companies say that creating a back door for the government will also their apps vulnerable to hackers.

"This Week" host George Stephanopoulos also pressed Clinton over her refusal to say the U.S. is declaring war on radical Islam.

"I don't want to do that because, number one, it doesn't do justice to the vast numbers of Muslims in our own country and around the world who are peaceful people," Clinton said. "Number two, it helps to create this clash of civilizations that is actually a recruiting tool for ISIS and other radical jihadists who use this as a way of saying we're in a war against the West. You must join us. If you are a Muslim, you must join us."

"If you're a law-abiding, peace-loving Muslim, you need to be with us against those who are distorting Islam," she added.

Weighing in on the debate over gun control after the shooting in San Bernardino, California, Clinton said, "We have to up our game against terrorists abroad and at home and we have to take account of the fact that our gun laws and the easy access to those guns by people who shouldn't get them."

Even though the weapons in that shooting were purchased legally, Clinton said that shouldn't stop Congress from passing stricter gun control legislation.

"That's not the way law works. I mean, we have laws that are going to govern our speed limits on roads, knowing some people are going to violate it or people are going to drive drunk. But we still have laws. We need to have comprehensive background checks. We need to close the gun show loophole, close the online loophole, go after what's call the Charleston loophole and end the liability for gun sellers," she said.

She also backs Democratic legislation to bar people on the no-fly list from owning guns, which failed in a Senate vote last Thursday, saying, "I'm a lot happier having a list that keeps people off planes that there's any question about their intent or their potential behavior."

And she condemned Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., for encouraging students, staff and faculty at his school to carry guns in order to "end those Muslims before they walked in" if they tried to attack the campus.

"This is the kind of deplorable, not only hateful response to a legitimate security issue but it is giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists," Clinton said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.