Why did Obama say just a day before the Paris attacks that ISIS was “contained”?

In a statement last week, President Barack Obama openly said that the threat posed by Islamic State was “contained.” This comment has raised a lot of questions and has been critically analyzed in the wake of Friday night’s Paris attacks, believed to have been caused by the terrorist group ISIS. The Paris attacks have drawn much attention to Obama’s statements regarding progress made by US and NATO forces on curbing ISIS’s progress. While it wasn’t quite clear who was responsible for the carnage in Paris, early reports stated there were shouts of “Allahu Akbar” just before the massacre began, and other cries including, “This is for Syria.” Later, reports indicated that Islamic State was claiming responsibility for the attacks.

“We have contained them,” Obama told ABC News in an interview that aired on Thursday. “I don’t think they’re gaining strength.”

The strikes and attacks on ISIS territories before the Paris tragedy were going on regularly, and a great deal of ground was being made to suppress the group’s activities. Earlier this week, the US reported an airstrike had likely killed “Jihadi John,” a British citizen who had fled Europe to join ISIS and became a prominent figure in the group’s propaganda videos, as he beheaded hostages and delivered messages in English. Moreover, a breakthrough was made when the Sinjar area in Iraq was taken over by the US from ISIS. Sinjar was of prime importance to ISIS, as it was one of the supply routes for the terrorist organization. As a consequence, they lost quite a bit of territory, and their expansion of further territory is also under check by US and Russian airstrikes.


“What we know from Al Qaeda documents is that these kind of drone strikes on prominent personalities in areas where they thought they were secure made the senior leaders of Al Qaeda extremely nervous and much more cautious about moving around,” Will McCants, an expert on jihadism and author of the recent book, The ISIS Apocalypse, told Business Insider on Friday. “And you would anticipate the same thing would happen with Islamic State leaders.”

The White House has been using a similar argument to defend Obama’s comments about ISIS being “contained.”

“The president was referring very specifically to the question of ISIL’s geographic expansion in Iraq and Syria,” Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “We, including the President, have said from beginning the fight against ISIL would be long and have both good and bad days,” according to a senior administration official, pressed to explain the disconnect between Obama’s comments and the coordinated attacks that stunned Europe and killed more than 120 people out on a Paris Friday night.

It is not yet clear who is to blame for the massacre in Paris, even though ISIS has claimed responsibility, just like it did when a Russian commercial plane crashed over the Sinai Peninsula. However, the French government has very assertively blamed ISIS. US officials have also said there is no reason to be uncertain about this assertion.

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