In an interview with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell airing on Face the Nation Sunday, President Obama said that ISIS is just one of a number of organizations threatening the United States that we will need to “focus” on.
“Their extreme ideology poses a medium- and long-term threat,” the president said of the group now taking control of large swaths of Iraq.
He said that the immediate problem is that ISIS is “destabilizing a country that could spill over,” but noted they are “just one of a number of organizations that we need to stay focused on,” including al-Qaeda in Yemen and Boko Haram.
“What we can’t do is think that we’re just gonna play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up,” Obama said.
The president rejected the idea that the power “vacuum” in Syria, and thus the current threat from ISIS, could have been averted if the U.S. had backed moderate rebels in Syria against Bashar Assad.
“I think this notion that somehow there was this ready-made moderate Syrian force that was ready to defeat al-Assad was simply not true,” he said. “The idea that they could have defeated” Assad and jihadist groups, he added, “if we just sent a few arms, was a fantasy.”