U.S. Officials: We Underestimated ISIS's Power in Iraq

American military, intelligence caught off-guard by jihadists' Mosul takeover.

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ISIS militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit.
ISIS militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit.

Current and former U.S. military and intelligence officials acknowledge that they underestimated the threat posed by ISIS, the murderous jihadist group whose sweep through Iraq is being challenged now by U.S. airstrikes, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"We underestimated the strength, the cohesion and the leadership of [ISIS]," Gen. Michael Flynn said in an interview shortly before he stepped down Friday as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

On June 10, the day ISIS took over the key Iraqi city Mosul, Rear Adm. John Kirby, chief spokesman at the Pentagon, said, "Obviously, this has got our attention in Mosul, but it doesn't change the calculus," the Journal reported on Sunday.

An unnamed U.S. intelligence official sought to shift the blame to the weak Iraqi military, which has been overwhelmed by ISIS. "This wasn't a U.S. intelligence failure," the official said. "It was an Iraqi military failure. The job of the intelligence community is to warn. We did that. If there was a surprise, it was in just how quickly Iraqi forces initially disintegrated when the shooting started."

However, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Saturday that U.S. officials had been caught off-guard by ISIS's relentless push through Iraq.

"There is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates, and I think the expectations of policy makers both in and outside of Iraq," Obama said.

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