Islamic State Crisis: Obama Says US Underestimated Threat

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( — September 30, 2014)  — President Obama said that al-Qaeda had been beaten in Iraq by US forces working with Sunni tribes, but they took advantage of the power vacuum in neighbouring Syria to emerge as Isis, later called Islamic State.

The jihadists had gained a military capacity by absorbing remnants of Saddam Hussein’s old army in Iraq, said Obama.

He noted that director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had acknowledged that the US had “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria”.

Asked whether the US had also overestimated the ability or will of Iraq’s US-trained military to fight the jihadists, Mr Obama said: “That’s true. That’s absolutely true.”

He reiterated that only part of the solution to defeating them would be military and that a political solution was also necessary.

“During the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos and attract foreign fighters… who believed in their jihadist nonsense,” Obama said.

Iraq has remained unstable since the departure of US troops, with the Sunni population largely alienated by the former Shia-led government. Syria has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011.

Over the weekend, US-led coalition aircraft targeted four makeshift oil refineries under IS control in Syria, as well as a command centre.

US Central Command said that early indications were that the attacks by US, Saudi and UAE planes were successful.

Meanwhile further fighting was reported in the besieged town of Kobane near Syria’s border with Turkey.

Syrian Kurd fighters in Kobane have been holding out against militants but the fighting has sent about 140,000 civilians fleeing towards Turkey.

Meanwhile, there has been fierce fighting to the west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.