President Barack Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated the threat from Islamic State terrorists and overestimated the ability and will of Iraq’s army to fight.
Questioning Obama’s strategy to destroy the group, House Speaker John Boehner said the U.S. may have “no choice” but to send in American troops if the mix of U.S.-led airstrikes and a ground campaign reliant on Iraqi forces, Kurdish fighters and soon-to-be trained Syrian rebels fails to achieve that goal.
Boehner, in an interview broadcast Sunday, did agree with the White House that Obama had the power to order airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but said he believes Congress should consider a resolution authorizing the use of force for this specific mission.
Boehner (R-Ohio) said he would bring lawmakers back to Washington — they are not set to return until after the Nov. 4 election — if Obama were to seek such a resolution.
Obama described the U.S. intelligence assessments in response to a question during a CBS interview on Sunday night. He was asked about how Islamic State terrorists had come to control so much territory in Syria and Iraq and whether it was a surprise to him.
The president said that during the Iraq war, U.S. military forces with the help of Iraq’s Sunni tribes were able to quash al-Qaida terrorists, 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, according to an excerpt released before the program aired.
The Obama administration has cited its intelligence weaknesses before.
At an August news conference, he said “there is no doubt” that the Islamic State group’s advance “has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates” suggested it would be.