President Obama acknowledged in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the United States had underestimated the rise of the Islamic State militant group, which has seized control of a broad swath of territory in the Middle East, and had placed too much trust in the Iraqi military, allowing the region to become “ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
Reflecting on how a president who wanted to disentangle the United States from wars in the Middle East ended up redeploying to Iraq and last week expanding air operations into Syria, Mr. Obama pointed to assessments by the intelligence agencies that said they were surprised by the rapid advances made in both countries by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Obama 60 Minutes interview Obama CBS interview 2014
“Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper (Obama is putting the blame on Clapper), has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Mr. Obama said on “60 Minutes,” the CBS News program, referring to James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence. Mr. Obama added that the agencies had overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi Army to fight such Sunni extremists. “That’s true. That’s absolutely true,” he said.
In citing Mr. Clapper, Mr. Obama made no mention of any misjudgment he may have made himself. Critics have repeatedly pointed to his comment last winter characterizing groups like the Islamic State as a “JV team” compared with the original Al Qaeda.
But he rebutted critics who say his refusal to intervene more directly in the Syrian civil war and his decision to pull all American troops out of Iraq in 2011 had created conditions that allowed the rise of the Islamic State. Instead, he pointed a finger at Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, until recently the prime minister of Iraq. “When we left, we had left them a democracy that was intact, a military that was well equipped and the ability then to chart their own course,” Mr. Obama said. “And that opportunity was squandered over the course of five years or so because the prime minister, Maliki, was much more interested in consolidating his Shia base.”
Ten cents worth:
The CIA and the military did not underestimate the rise of ISIS. There were plenty of forewarnings. President Obama, for political reasons, wanted to perpetuate the idea that al Queda and other militant groups “were on the run”. And, that his killing of Osama Bin Laden ended the terrorist threat. It was naive on his part to believe that that misconception would be sustainable. Now, Mr. Obama is admitting his underestimation of ISIS while blatantly underestimating the level of effort required to stop ISIS by eliminating the option of US boots on the ground. It won’t be long until he’s forced to admit that option will be required.
As awful as ISIS is, and it should be eliminated, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that our reason for bombing Syria is based on humanitarian reasons. There’s only one reason that the U.S. is involved in the Middle East — oil. We are hamstrung by our reliance on Mideast oil, and we continue to make poor policy decisions because of it. Until we can fully rely on energy sources other than that particular fossil fuel in that particular region, we will continue to dance to the tune of whomever is pulling on our strings. This kind of high-jacked strategy is no way for a supposedly powerful nation such as ours to enact policy, whether foreign or domestic.
Dempsey: 15,000 ground troops needed to destroy ISIS
As the massive US-led air campaign plows ahead, the US’s top military chief says it will take 15,000 ground troops to wipe out ISIS in Syria.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the statement at a Friday briefing as Britain, Belgium and Denmark joined the bombing campaign to wipe out the terror group in Iraq.
“The answer is yes. There has to be a ground component in the campaign,” Dempsey said, appearing alongside Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“We need 12,000 to 15,000 to reclaim lost territory,” he said, referring to the huge swath ISIS carved out from Iraq and Syria.
ISIS is estimated to have amassed more than 30,000 fighters, including many recruits from Western nations.
The US-led coalition, which also includes five Arab countries joining the air campaign, plans to train Syrian rebels to do the dirty work on the ground, while also relying on Kurdish peshmerga forces and Iraqi tribal fighters.
President Obama has repeatedly insisted US troops won’t play a combat role in the campaign.
In Great Britain, Parliament gave an overwhelming vote, 534-43, to join the Iraq coalition Friday — just days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of British hostage David Haines.
“This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us, and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“There isn’t a ‘walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.”
The UK is dispatching six Tornado fighter jets. Belgium is sending six F-16s, and Denmark is sending seven more.
In the face of the withering air attack, ISIS militants are changing tactics by ditching conspicuous convoys in favor of motorcycles.
The jihadists have also taken to erecting their notorious black flag on the rooftops of residential houses and buildings — many of them empty — to create confusion.