Obama Admits to 'Underestimating' ISIS Threat and 'Overestimating' Military Ability To Defeat Them

( [email protected] ) Sep 29, 2014 01:29 PM EDT
President Obama
U.S. President Obama admits that the U.S. government ''underestimated'' the strength of the Islamic State (60 Minutes)

President Obama recently admitted that U.S. intelligence officials "underestimated" the threat of the Islamic State and also overestimated the Iraqi army's capacity to defeat the violent terrorist group.

In an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Obama stated that the Islamic State militants went "underground" after being eliminated in Iraq, only to regroup during the Syrian civil war.

"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 added that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has acknowledged that the U.S. "underestimated what had been taking place in Syria" and that it was "absolutely true" that the U.S. overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army.

However, Obama revealed that the U.S. is facing difficulty in Syria, as the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State is actually helping Syrian President Bashar Assad whose government has committed "terrible atrocities."

"I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance," Obama said. "We are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad."

Instead, Obama asserted that the threat from ISIS is a more "immediate concern that has to be dealt with."

"On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan Group -- those folks could kill Americans," he said.

The Islamic State has already captured large sections of Iraq and Syria in an attempt to establish a worldwide caliphate, while the Khorasan Group, a cell of Islamic militants, is plotting attacks against the West in cooperation with the Nusra front, Syria's Al Qaeda affiliate.

The President stated that his first priority is defeating the extremists who are threatening Iraq and the West--a mission that would require a strong ground force. However, Obama has said he has no interest in a major U.S. ground presence beyond the 1,600 American advisers and special operations troops he already has ordered to Iraq.

"Right now, we've got a campaign plan that has a strong chance for success in Iraq," the president said. "Syria is a more challenging situation."

"We are assisting Iraq in a very real battle that's taking place on their soil, with their troops," Obama concluded. "This is not America against ISIL. This is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership."

"That's always the case," Obama added. "We are the indispensable nation. 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."

However, House Speaker John Boehner slammed Obama's strategy to destroy the Islamic State group on Sunday, telling ABC's "This Week" that the U.S. must take the terrorist threat seriously, and may have "no choice" but to send in American troops.

"These are barbarians. They intend to kill us," Boehner said. "And if we don't destroy them first, we're going to pay the price."