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President Barack Obama said in an interview Sunday night that the U.S. underestimated the threat of ISIS, especially in Syria, and simultaneously overestimated the willingness and preparedness of the Iraqi army to fight the Islamist militants. Syria became "ground zero" for jihadists during the "chaos" of the civil war there, Obama told CBS correspondent Steve Kroft during an interview that will air in full on "60 Minutes" Sunday night. Obama said the U.S. "underestimated what had been taking place in Syria," and when asked about director of national intelligence James Clapper's recent comments that the U.S. also overestimated the capabilities of the Iraqi military, Obama said: "That’s true, that’s absolutely true."
"That’s why it’s so important for us to recognize, part of our solution here is going to be military," Obama said. But the president reiterated that "political solutions" must be reached in Iraq and Syria in order to mitigate the conflict and terror threats in the Middle East. The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS for weeks, and on Monday began an airstrike campaign in Syria. "We just have to push them back, and shrink their space," Obama said, "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." But Obama has said, despite criticism from some, that America will not engage in a ground war in Iraq or Syria.
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- Obama's U.N. Rallying Cry: World Must Dismantle ISIS 'Network of Death'
— Elisha Fieldstadt