In a 60 Minutes interview set to air on CBS tonight, President Obama admitted the U.S. was caught off guard by the situation in the Syrian civil war," which had turned the country into a "ground zero for jihadists," and the rise of groups like what became ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The president was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft about comments from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has said the U.S. not only underestimated ISIS, it also overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi military to fight the extremist group.
"That's true," Mr. Obama said. "That's absolutely true."
"Jim Clappper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria," he said, blaming the instability of the Syrian civil war for giving extremists space to thrive.
Iraq has been warning about Al-Qaeda militants in Syria for years, identifying as early as late 2011 that Al Qaeda militants that had flooded into Iraq from Syria during the U.S. Iraq War in the 2000s were now crossing the border the other way around. The Syrian regime has considered their civil war a counter-terrorism campaign since the first peaceful protests in January 2011.