Friday, September 19, 2014

James Clapper: We underestimated the Islamic State’s ‘will to fight’

By David Ignatius Opinion writer September 18 at 8:13 PM WashPost

The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — underestimating the enemy’s will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Clapper’s comments came in a telephone interview Wednesday, in which he summarized the elements of a new National Intelligence Strategy released this week. Clapper also answered some broader questions about intelligence issues confronting the country.

Asked whether the intelligence community had succeeded in its goal of providing “anticipatory intelligence” about the extremist movement in Syria and Iraq that has declared itself the Islamic State, Clapper said his analysts had reported the group’s emergence and its “prowess and capability,” as well as the “deficiencies” of the Iraqi military. Then he offered a self-critique:

“What we didn’t do was predict the will to fight. That’s always a problem. We didn’t do it in Vietnam. We underestimated the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese and overestimated the will of the South Vietnamese. In this case, we underestimated ISIL [the Islamic State] and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. . . . I didn’t see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn’t see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.”

(More here.)

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