The White House's "misjudging" of the powerful threat from ISIS continued to drive news coverage Monday as its spokesman walked back the president's remarks that seemed to suggest that the intelligence community dropped the ball in providing its assessment of the looming danger, the New York Times reported
The failure to take ISIS seriously, the Times noted in a "reconstruction" of the resurgence's timeline, was the result of "a number of pivotal moments when both the White House and the intelligence community misjudged the Islamic State."
In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday, President Barack Obama
noted that U.S. authorities had underestimated ISIS, a suggestion that has angered members of Congress as well as intelligence experts who said he was fully warned in 2013 about what was ahead.
Michigan congressman Mike Rogers, himself a former FBI agent who now chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said in a pointed statement directed at the president: "This was not an intelligence community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest sought to clarify the president's comments, noting he was not blaming anyone as the U.S. sought global cooperation in the ongoing air campaign to weaken terrorist strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
"That is not what the president’s intent was," Earnest told reporters Tuesday, according to the Times. "What the president was trying to make clear" was "how difficult it is to predict the will of security forces that are based in another country to fight."
He added: "The president continues to have the highest degree of confidence in our intelligence community to continue to provide that advice."
The first British airstrikes began Tuesday as the coalition against the Islamic State ramped up its efforts, CNN reported
The air battle continued amid calls from members of Congress and other leaders, including former British prime minister Tony Blair and current minister David Cameron, that such strikes would not be enough and a ground game was warranted to stop ISIS's spread, ABC News reported
The U.S. should have known that the Islamist terrorist group was regrouping and plotting in the region, one expert told the Times.
"To anyone watching developments in Iraq from mid-2010 and Syria from early 2011, the recovery and rise of ISIS should have been starkly clear," noted Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "The organization itself was also carrying out an explicitly clear step-by-step strategy aimed at engendering the conditions that would feed its accelerated rise."
Now, as marauding ISIS forces push harder into countries, seizing property, persecuting Christians and selling black market oil to fund their fury, the president has had to rethink the more passive strategy he has favored in handling the region, one Syrian policy expert told the Times.
"I don’t know if Obama’s fully switched on or not," said Andrew Tabler, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "But he had to fundamentally make changes in his approach."
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