Susan Rice
Susan Rice Reuters

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday ground troops will be a part of the campaign to combat Islamist terror group ISIS - but she repeated the Obama administration's position that these must be Iraqi forces, and not U.S. troops, warning the effort to combat the terrorists who have seized large parts of both Iraq and Syria will be a “long-term effort.”

“It’s got to be the Iraqis. This is their fight. This is their territory,” Rice said in an interview with NBC's “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd. “When we had over 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, it still came down to whether the Iraqis were willing and able to fight for their own country.”

Rice said the Iraqi military “atrophied” under the sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and said the administration hopes the new government is able to rebuild that country’s armed forces so it can battle ISIS on its own.

“It's not going to be quick. It's not going to be easy. But this is the only way to accomplish taking back territory, preventing a safe haven in Iraq in a sustainable way," she stated.

"This is very early days of the strategy. Strategy's very clear. We'll do what we can from the air. We will support the Iraqi security forces, the Kurds, and ultimately over time, the moderate opposition in Syria to be able to control territory and take the fight to ISIL," Rice said.

Rice said the U.S. is not coordinating with Iran, which is supporting Iraqi forces in its fight against ISIS, and has a frosty relationship with Washington over its nuclear program.

“We've had some informal consultations on the margins of the nuclear talks about certain regional issues but there's no coordination, there's no collaboration on the anti-ISIS campaign,” she said.