Obama: U.S. underestimated ISIL in Iraq and Syria

Obama acknowledged that the U.S. underestimated the rise of the ISIL and overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off the militant group in an interview

Obama: U.S. underestimated ISIL in Iraq and Syria

World Bulletin/News Desk

U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated ISIL activity inside Syria, which has become "ground zero" for fighters worldwide, President Barack Obama said in a CBS television interview broadcast on Sunday.

Conversely, the United States overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the militant groups, Obama said in a "60 Minutes" interview taped on Friday, days after the U.S. president made his case at the United Nations for action.

Citing earlier comments by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.

Militants went underground when U.S. Marines quashed al Qaeda in Iraq with help from Iraq's tribes, he said.

"But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos," Obama said.

Obama last week expanded U.S.-led airstrikes, which began in Iraq in August, to Syria and he has been seeking to build a wider coalition effort to weaken ISIL.

Clapper told a Washington Post columnist this month that U.S. intelligence had underestimated ISIL and overestimated Iraq's army.

"I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming," Clapper was quoted as saying. "I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable."

Obama outlined the military goal against ISIL: "We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters."

'GENERATIONAL CHALLENGE'

But Obama said a political solution was necessary in both Iraq and Syria for peace in the long term.

"I think there's going to be a generational challenge. I don't think that this is something that's going to happen overnight," Obama said, citing an environment in which young men "are more concerned whether they're Shia or Sunni, rather than whether they are getting a good education" or a good job.

Saying a solution involved "how these countries teach their youth," Obama said: "What our military operations can do is to just check and roll back these (militant) networks as they appear and make sure that the time and space is provided for a new way of doing things to begin to take root."

Obama said he recognized the contradiction in opposing the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while battling ISIL militants who have been fighting Assad's government.

"For Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process," Obama said. "On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan Group, those folks could kill Americans."

Asked about how despite assembling a large international coalition against ISIL, it appeared the United States was doing most of the work, Obama replied: "That's always the case.

"America leads," he said. "We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us."

Last Mod: 29 Eylül 2014, 10:52
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