World / US and Canada

Obama says US underestimates rise of Islamic State

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-09-29 08:42

WASHINGTON - The United States underestimated the rise of the Islamic State now running amok in Iraq and Syria while overrating the Iraqi military's ability to fight the extremist group, President Barack Obama acknowledged in an interview to be aired on Sunday night.

"That's true, that's absolutely true," the president told the CBS News "60 Minutes" program, echoing an assessment made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper a couple of days ago.

"Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria," Obama said in remarks seen as his most candid to date about the rapid rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, that proclaimed in late June a caliphate in vast areas it had seized in both Syria and Iraq.

American warplanes started pounding the group's targets in Iraq and Syria respectively on Aug. 8 and Sept. 22, with separate help from France and Arabian countries.

In excerpts from the interview released on CBS website, Obama also blamed the civil war in Syria for giving rise to the group.

In defense of his military approach, the president said: "We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters."

He stressed, however, a political solution to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

"What we also have to do is we have to come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria, in particular, but in the Middle East generally that arrive in the combination between Sunni and Shia populations that right now are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world," he remarked.

Though US Congress has approved Obama's plan to train and arm vetted Syrian rebels for them to fight the Islamic State on the ground, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner said the president's goal of degrading and ultimately destroying the group cannot be achieved without sending in ground troops.

"At the end of the day I think it's going to take more than air strikes to drive them out of there," the speaker told ABC's "This Week" program on Sunday, adding "At some point somebody's boots have to be on the ground. That's the whole point."

Asked if he would recommend putting American boots on the ground, an idea Obama has voiced opposition to time and again, Boehner replied: "We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us, and if we don't destroy them first, we're going to pay the price."

Related stories:

US airstrikes hit IS positions in Syria

Britain to join airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq

Trudeau visits Sina Weibo
May gets little gasp as EU extends deadline for sufficient progress in Brexit talks
Ethiopian FM urges strengthened Ethiopia-China ties
Yemen's ex-president Saleh, relatives killed by Houthis
Most Popular
Hot Topics