Intel community pushes back against Obama
In last Saturday's news conference, President Obama blamed bad "intelligence estimates" for failing to react to the rise of ISIS in Iraq. He, himself, actually referred to ISIS as the "junior varsity" of al-Qaeda.
As you can imagine, this is not sitting well with members of the intelligence community.
The U.S. intelligence community Monday pushed back at reports that the White House was not warned about the growing strength of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ahead of the group’s recent offensive.
“The job of the Intelligence Community is to warn. We did that," said a U.S. intelligence official. "In short, this was not U.S. intelligence failure. It was an Iraqi military failure.”ADVERTISEMENT
Reports suggested that the White House was caught off-guard last week by the Islamic State’s rapid advance on Erbil, a city in northern Iraq where the U.S. has a consulate and joint operations center
After Kurdish Peshmerga forces found themselves outgunned, President Obama ordered U.S. airstrikes there and humanitarian drops to stranded Iraqi refugees.
Obama said on Saturday that ISIS's "movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates."
U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal in a report published Monday that American intelligence agencies "often have underestimated the group's ability to make rapid operational gains."
An intelligence official, though, pushed back against that characterization, saying that analysts have been closely tracking ISIS and its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, for years.
"Throughout the past year, the Intelligence Community has repeatedly warned that ISIL was on the march, gaining strength and picking up growing Sunni support, while the Iraqi Security Forces looked vulnerable," the official said, using ISIS's alternative name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Although their reports are classified to the public, intelligence agencies’ assessments are shared with the White House and members of Congress.
The official said intelligence analysts have even tracked how ISIS exploited political divisions in Iraq’s Sunni community, helping the group in June take over Iraq’s second largest city, Sunni-dominant Mosul.
Alarm bells should have been going off for months at the White House. All you had to do was read the news to discover ISIS growing in strength and fighting capability in Syria. When they began to fight other rebel groups for dominance - and win - the writing should have been on the wall.
Perhaps if the spooks had sprinkled their reports with golf analogies, Obama would have paid more attention.