The latest ISIS attacks in Paris this past week have revealed fault lines among academics, policymakers, security experts, and media commentators regarding whether ISIS is truly a threat to U.S national interests, and how best to effectively respond to the group and its activities. The attacks have also laid bare the weaknesses of the CIA, as well as the U.S. intelligence community, writ large, in its fight against ISIS, and the Obama administration’s strategy to contain the Syria-based group.

According to multiple reports, the Paris attacks appear to have been carried out by ISIS external operatives based in France and Belgium. The group has also claimed responsibility for the attacks in a public statement.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—the lead actor in U.S. counterterrorism operations in the form of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC)—has reportedly suffered from weak intelligence on ISIS, according to some of those familiar with CIA operations against the group.

The CIA’s intelligence collection against ISIS is reportedly fueled by a worrying amount of speculation and assumptions, underscored by initial assumptions within the intelligence community that ISIS primarily presented a “lone wolf” threat. In other words, at its worst, the group was thought to be inspiring attacks across the West, but was ultimately assessed to be unlikely involved in directing them.

This false assumption is clearly illustrated in a commentary printed in The Week magazine in July 2015, in which John Mueller wrote that the “ISIS threat is totally overblown.” Part of his rationale was, “the main fear was that foreign militants who had gone to fight with ISIS would be trained and then sent back to do damage in their own countries. However, there has been scarcely any of that.” Until now, that is.

Mueller, like many academics, commentators, and security experts, was, of course, wrong. ISIS is carrying out planned external operations like those seen in Paris this past week, Beirut on November 12, and against a Russian charter jet over the Sinai on October 31. In other words, initial assumptions were false, and ISIS looks as though it is set to pick up where al-Qa’ida left off, targeting the “far enemy” where it lives. It should be noted that al-Qa’ida has been significantly degraded in its ability to carry out these external operations largely due to the relentless decimation of its core leadership over the past 14 years.

Those familiar with CIA operations against ISIS, conversely, fear that there has been a strategic failure to invest in human collection against the group, and instead, the CIA has relied upon ad hoc responses to various crises as they arise. In other words, the CIA is “putting out fires” but failing to degrade ISIS’s central leadership in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, in the same manner in which al-Qa’ida core leadership was destroyed in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

To get closer to the root problem, one must examine the Obama administration’s strategy against ISIS, under which the CIA’s operations fall, and ask why it has failed to advocate an attack against ISIS in Mosul, Ramadi, or Raqqa in any meaningful way. Why has the U.S. allowed ISIS to operate its own city-states in these locations? What is the strategy here? Unfortunately, this author does not have the answers to those questions. It seems inexplicable to leave these city-states alone, bases in which ISIS can plan and support attacks abroad. It’s especially inexplicable in the wake of yet more attacks directed against Western, or even Middle Eastern, cities.