WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Sunday he agrees with intelligence leaders who believe the United States not only underestimated the threat of militants seeking to form the Islamic State group but also overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army to fight.
Obama spoke to CBS’ “60 Minutes” during an interview that is to air Sunday. The network released excerpts ahead of time. In the interview, Obama was asked how Islamic State group fighters were able to control so much land in Syria and Iraq. He said U.S. military forces with the help of Sunni tribes were able to quash al-Qaida fighters, who went “back underground.”
“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.
He called Syria ground zero for jihadis around the world. He said military force is necessary to shrink their capacity, cut off financing and eliminate the flow of foreign fighters.
At the same time, political solutions are needed in the Middle East that accommodate both Sunnis and Shiites. He said conflicts between Islam’s two largest sects are the biggest cause of conflict throughout the world.
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