- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2014

The Pentagon’s spokesman said Monday that while the U.S. government was aware of the development of the Islamic State terrorist group, officials didn’t appreciate the speed with which the group could mobilize.

“I think everybody was mindful about their growth and development,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said Monday on MSNBC. “What surprised us, certainly from a military perspective, was how quickly they moved into Mosul over the summer, how fast that went, their progress up north, as well as just the way four or five Iraqi divisions kind of melted away.”

The comments come on the heels of President Obama’s acknowledging on “60 Minutes” that the United States underestimated the rise of the group.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t watching them,” Adm. Kirby said. “But I don’t think we completely, full appreciated the speed with which they could move and how well-resourced, how fast, how lightning-fast they could be in the summertime.”

He said they knew Iraqi forces weren’t able to keep up their capabilities as well as they were in 2011, when the last U.S. combat troops left the country, but said officials weren’t as prepared for how some of those divisions weren’t well-led or well-trained.

Adm. Kirby also said some security forces are doing a good job of defending Baghdad, pointing to their taking back the Mosul Dam facility from the group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, over the summer with the help of Kurds and U.S. air support.

He acknowledged that there are American troops in the region, but reiterated that they will not serve a combat role in the fight.

“We have said, we’re at war with ISIL, so it’s certainly a combat zone, it’s a combat area,” Adm. Kirby said. “And when you’re dropping bombs, that’s combat. But there’s a difference between that and putting troops on the ground to go against ISIL directly.”

“We believe that if we don’t take care of this now, that we and our Iraqi partners take care of this now, that this could be a much bigger problem for us,” he said.

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