WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is brushing aside criticism of Obama administration Middle East policy, taking exception to assertions Washington has been doing too little to combating the surge of terrorism there.

Kerry says in an interview broadcast Thursday that the administration has been "engaged" in efforts over the past several months and is now increasing its assistance to strife-torn Iraq.

Asked on NBC about harsh criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney, Kerry says, quote, "This is a man who took us directly into Iraq. Please."

Kerry says the U.S. "didn't have the operational theater capacity" to be a factor early on in the new wave of violence. And he also says "all options are still on the table" for Obama in choosing a response to the crisis.