President Barack Obama said U.S. intelligence officials failed to appreciate the gains made by Islamic State extremists in Syria during the last few years of that country’s civil war.
“I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said in a taped interview that will air in full tonight on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program.
“Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned,” the president said, Islamic State was “able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.” Obama spoke in an excerpt aired today on the TV network’s “Face the Nation” program.
“This became ground zero for jihadists around the world,” Obama said of Syria, where Islamic State now controls territory in the east, centered on the city of Raqqa.
Obama also said the U.S. overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army to fight the radical Sunni group, which also controls part of northern Iraq.
“Where you’ve got states that are failing or in the midst of civil war, these kinds of organizations thrive,” he said.
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