President Obama said Friday the U.S. had been “under serious threat” from Islamist extremists for his entire presidency, downplaying national security concerns about the gains made by Sunni militants in Iraq.
Obama was asked in an interview with "Good Morning America" if the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in northern Iraq dramatically increased the likelihood of a terror attack on the American homeland.
Obama conceded that the group had become more powerful in “some places,” but downplayed the idea that ISIS's gains in Iraq meant the U.S. was in greater danger.
“We've also got a lot better at protecting ourselves,” he said.
The president’s former ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, argued that ISIS's advances mean increased risk for the U.S. in an op-ed in The Washington Post earlier this month.
“We would be foolish to think that ISIS will not plan attacks against the West now that it has the space and security to do so,” Crocker wrote. “This is a more formidable force than Osama bin Laden’s group that brought us 9/11. Its fighters are experienced, completely committed to their cause, well armed and well financed. As many as 2,000 of them hold Western passports, including U.S. ones, so there’s no need for visas. This is global jihad, and it will be coming our way.”
Obama has so far resisted calls to order military strikes against ISIS, saying that he did not want to intervene unless Iraqi leaders progressed with a political conciliation process that could stabilize the country in the long term. Obama has ordered up to 300 military advisers to the country to assist the Iraqi security forces as they attempt to protect Baghdad from ISIS forces.