President Obama acknowledged Sunday that U.S. intelligence officials "underestimated" the threat posed by the Islamic State and overestimated the Iraqi army’s capacity to defeat the militant group.
The president said in an wide-ranging interview on CBS' “60 Minutes” that the Islamic State militants went "underground" after being squashed in Iraq and regrouped under the cover of 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.
The president said his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has acknowledged that the U.S. "underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.” He also said it was "absolutely true" that the U.S. overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army.
However, Obama also acknowledged that the U.S. is dealing with a conundrum in Syria, as the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State is helping Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the U.N. has accused of war crimes.
"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," whose government has committed "terrible atrocities."