President Barack Obama said the United States underestimated Islamist militants operating inside Syria.
He told CBS News that Syria had become “ground zero” of jihadist activity worldwide.
Also, he said the US overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the militant groups, Reuters reported Sunday.
Obama sat down with CBS days after making his case for global action at the United Nations to fight the jihadists.
Citing earlier comments by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Obama acknowledged that US intelligence underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.
Islamic militants went underground when US Marines quashed al Qaeda in Iraq with help from Iraqi tribes, he said.
“But over the past couple of years, 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 a clip of the interview broadcast earlier.
“And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
Last week, Obama expanded US-led air strikes to Syria and he has been seeking to build a wider coalition effort to weaken the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
The group has killed thousands and beheaded at least three westerners while seizing parts of Syria and northwestern Iraq.
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