Jon Karl Grills Earnest: People Warned of ISIS for Months, Did Obama Not Hear?
ABC’s Jonathan Karl put White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the hot spot today about how President Obama could say the U.S. “underestimated” ISIS when several high-ranking officials warned of the threat months ago.
And what Karl asked is whether this was underestimation on the part of the intel community or on the part of the president.
Karl brought up congressional testimony last November from Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk. In his statements to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee [PDF], McGurk spoke of multiple attacks ISIS had carried out last year, and explained how ISIS has been able to thrive:
AQ/ISIL has benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Ninewa provinces. It has also benefited from a sanctuary across the porous border in Syria, control of lucrative facilities there, such as oil wells, and regular movement of weapons and fighters between Syria and Iraq.
Karl asked, “Did this message get to the president? Did he believe it? Did he not hear it? What happened?”
They went back and forth for a few minutes on the subject, especially President Obama’s “JV” comments. Earnest cited comments by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that the U.S. underestimated ISIS’ “will to fight,” but back in February of this year, then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn testified to Congress about the likelihood that ISIS would “attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.”
Earnest maintained that “nobody could predict… the willingness of the Iraqi security forces to stand up and fight for their own country.”
Watch the video below:
[image via screengrab]
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