Obama rues error in IS estimation
President Barack Obama admitted that the United States underestimated the threat posed by Islamic State fighters in Syria, as the US-led coalition pressed its air campaign against the jihadists yesterday.
Obama said Washington had also overestimated the effectiveness of the security forces in neighbouring Iraq, which it had trained and supplied but which collapsed across much of the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in the face of a lightning offensive led by IS in June.
As the US-led air campaign in Syria entered its seventh day, coalition strikes hit IS targets during the night, both in its Raqa province stronghold and in Aleppo province further west, a monitoring group said.
In neighbouring Iraq, US-led strikes destroyed two IS checkpoints near insurgent-held Fallujah on Sunday, the Pentagon said, as Iraqi troops fought off a jihadist assault on a strategic Euphrates Valley town downstream.
Speaking to CBS News, Obama admitted his administration had underestimated the opportunity that the three-anda-half year-old Syrian civil war would provide for jihadist militants to regroup and stage a sudden comeback.
He said that former al-Qaeda fighters driven from Iraq by US forces in the years before their withdrawal in 2011 with the support of Sunni Arab tribes had been able to regroup in Syria to form the even more dangerous IS.
Asked whether Washington has also overestimated the ability or will of Iraqs US-trained military to fight the jihadists on its own, Obama said Thats true. Thats absolutely true.
Meanwhile Islamic State group fighters closed in yesterday to within only a few kilometres of a key Kurdish town on Syrias border with Turkey, despite continued air strikes by the US-led coalition.
NATO member Turkeys government meanwhile said it would ask parliament to debate joining the coalition against the jihadists operating on the countrys doorstep from as early as Thursday.
The alliance carried out fresh raids against IS positions in Syria overnight, but the jihadists still managed to advance within 5km of the strategic Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane to the Kurds, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based monitoring group said it was the closest the militants had come to the town since they began advancing toward it nearly two weeks ago.
The jihadists fired at least 15 rockets at the town centre, killing at least one person, as they advanced, the Observatory said, adding that other rockets hit the Syrian-Turkish border.
In Ankara, parliamentary speaker Cemil Cicek was quoted by NTV television as saying motions for discussions on Turkey joining the coalition could land with lawmakers today.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the motions would be debated on Thursday.
Turkey had refused to join the coalition while dozens of its citizens including diplomats and children were being held by IS after being abducted in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.