WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday acknowledged problems with the fight against the Islamic State and conceded there would likely be more but used a visit to the Pentagon to reaffirm his overall strategy for battling the extremist group that has declared its own state.

“There will be periods of progress, but there are also going to be some setbacks,” Obama said, while flanked by the top brass.

The U.S. military, he said, was making progress against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but more work remains to be done.

“This will not be quick - this is a long-term campaign,” Obama said in the wake of setbacks that have prompted critics to call for a more robust U.S. response against the Islamic State. Obama said he discussed with his military aides “what’s working, and what we can do better.” In his review of the campaign, Obama stressed that the United States is working with a 60-nation coalition, and that local forces must take the initiative. Military force alone will not “degrade” and “destroy” the Islamic State, he said, citing diplomatic and economic efforts that include efforts to cut off terrorists’ money.

The United States and other countries must remain vigilant against “lone wolves” who might be inspired by the Islamic State to launch terrorist attacks, Obama said. That includes projects to counter an extremist ideology that seeks to attract adherents, including young Muslim men.

“Ideologies are not defeated with guns,” Obama said. “They’re defeated by better ideas, more attractive and more compelling vision.”

He added: “We will never be at war with Islam while fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims.” But Senator John McCain, a senior Republican, said the Islamic State continues to gain land in Iraq and Syria, and to expand its influence throughout the region. McCain said Obama’s comments “reveal the disturbing degree of self-delusion that characterizes the Administration’s campaign against ISIL.”

The U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, began last August after its fighters overran Mosul and seized tracts of land in Syria as well. It continues with daily airstrikes. The heart of the strategy, however, involves training and equipping local troops to battle IS.

The results have been dismal: Iraqi troops fled the provincial capital of Ramadi in May without a fight despite outnumbering ISIL by at least 10 to 1; a touted effort to train and equip Syrian moderates has had a stumbling start, with fewer than 100 having been vetted and receiving training.

McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, has been a persistent critic of the strategy, saying that the deployment of additional trainers last month is “disconnected from any coherent strategy to defeat ISIL.”

In Iraq, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter pointed to the recent deployment of 450 U.S. troops to a base near Ramadi called Taqaddum. Troops there will train 500 Sunni fighters per month to take on IS, a Sunni-based movement. Overall, he noted that 10,500 Iraqi security forces have been advised and equipped by U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, Obama also called on Senate Republicans to confirm a Treasury Department official responsible for blocking the flow of money to potential terrorists.

The Republican-run Senate has not even scheduled a hearing for Adam Szubin for undersecretary of the Treasury responsible for interdicting terrorist funds and sanctioning businesses and nations that supply the money, Obama said. If Congress was serious about helping, it would confirm Szubin. Szubin would replace David Cohen, who is now deputy director of the CIA.