President Obama, during an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, cites a member of his administration in acknowledging that the United States underestimated the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, while overestimating the Iraqi army’s capacity to fight against the terrorist organization.
In the interview, which will be broadcast Sunday night, the president mentions remarks by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, that the U.S. intelligence community underestimated the impact of Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Syria.
According to an excerpt released by CBS, 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft later says that Clapper “did not just say that we underestimated ISIL. He said we overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi army, to fight.”
“That is true,” Obama replies. “That is absolutely true.”
At a press conference in August, as we noted on this blog, Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence had underestimated the speed with which ISIS was able to advance. “I think that there is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates,” he said then.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Obama says that organizations like ISIS thrive amid civil wars, like the one in Syria. “That is why it’s so important for us to recognize part of our solution here is going to be military,” the president says. “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.”