Americans still concerned about ISIS despite Ramadi victory

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 28, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, well, maybe those Iraqi soldiers we have been just vilifying, saying they're not up to the task, they run away from ISIS, those memorable scenes 14 months ago where they threw down their guns and didn't bother even taking on ISIS recruits, that was then.

In Ramadi, this is now, those same soldiers, not exactly the same ones who ran, but Iraqi elite soldiers, taking control of things in Ramadi and winning back the city. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter already congratulating the Iraqi government's progress in retaking Ramadi, albeit with a little bit of American help.

To General Jack Keane in Washington on what he makes of this, because it comes at a time, General -- we will get into different polls on the subject -- where a lot of Americans are saying ISIS has the upper hand here, particularly when it comes to the administration's battle plan with taking on ISIS.

What do you make of this Ramadi victory today?

GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), FORMER U.S. ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first of all, it is a step in the right direction. Make no mistake about that.

I understand the American people's concern, because they're just looking at some facts now that they have been seeing for almost a couple of years, which is ISIS controls a large swathe of territory, although they lost some today. They have expanded into seven other countries.

And the reality is, they have a global strategy where they're using their followers to kill their fellow citizens in Lebanon and Turkey and France, the Russian airliner, and now the United States. So that's what has got the people concerned, that the problem doesn't seem to be going away. They seem to be expanding. And the American people have got that right.

What happened here in Ramadi, Neil good, step in the right direction.  Clearly, some forces that are trained performed adequately. We gave them some equipment that was critical to them dealing with ISIS. That is anti- tank weapons. Our air campaign was more effective.

We can feel good about this. But we're a long way, Neil, from going to Mosul, which is in the northern part of Iraq, major city, second largest city in Iraq. And we have no plans -- I say again -- no plans to secure Raqqa, Syria, which is the capital of ISIS.

CAVUTO: All right, so, ISIS is still on the run, but they could be running and controlling these cities in Mosul, in that case, about 300 miles away from Ramadi.

So it does come back to a question that has been asked a lot about ISIS and whether, like cockroaches, they just move out to other regions. That might explain why it there is such cynicism, a CNN poll that shows that the majority of Americans are not very confident that the president's plan is working. Six out of 10 disapprove it, and this only about a day or two after a FOX poll that showed similar numbers showing that when it came to the president's strategy on ISIS, Americans were not impressed.

Could this change things, though? Could the president point to this and say, well, take a look at that, take a look at what happened in Ramadi?

KEANE: Well, certainly, they will do that, and they have some justification to take some pride about what took place here.

Look, there was a humiliating, embarrassing defeat here seven months ago, where the Iraqi army and police ran based on the onslaught of ISIS. But what is happening to the American people, also, it's occurring to them that, yes, we have to have a sense of urgency to deal with this problem because they have followers around the world who are going to kill their fellow citizens.

So, that's number one. And we don't seem to be demonstrating that urgency.  Number two, it's also occurring to the American people that we have a generational problem with radical Islam, and yet we have not organized an alliance to deal with that. There is no strategy to deal with that. So, after you deal with al Qaeda, like we did in Pakistan, and you deal with ISIS, which eventually we will deal with, we will have another problem again if we don't face the generational aspect of this ideology and get organized to deal with that in a strategic way.

CAVUTO: The stigma, though, might have come off ISIS that they're so threatening and intimidating, given this success. Right? We can rethink, like, hey, we needn't be terrorized by the terrorists. They can be beaten, right?

KEANE: Well, absolutely.

And let's look at some of the facts. The Kurds, every battle that they have fought with ISIS, supported by American airpower, they have won. They have reclaimed their northern territory in Syria and they have reclaimed their northern territory in Iraq.

We have had -- in support of the Iraqi army and some Shia militia and some police paramilitary forces, we have taken the Baiji oil refinery and now Ramadi. Those are positive steps. And it definitely shows you that ISIS is not 10-foot-tall.


KEANE: We can defeat these guys when we get organized, when we have some people that are, one, willing to fight. As you suggest, they got to be willing to fight.

CAVUTO: Absolutely.

KEANE: They have to have some skill. And they have got to have some airpower to support them.

CAVUTO: You're right on every count, General. Thank you very, very much.

Happy new year to you.

KEANE: Yes, happy new year to you, Neil. Always good talking to you.

CAVUTO: Same here. All right.

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