A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center challenges the notion that the Islamic State only recently became a major terror threat, describing the network's gains in Iraq as a crisis four years in the making.
Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that top aides to President Obama expect the threat from the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to outlast Obama's time in office.
The details underscore the challenge facing the U.S. government and its allies as the president and military advisers weigh how -- and where -- to confront the Islamist militant forces.
"ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014: it had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years," the report from the West Point center said.
The report said that the "shattering" of Iraq's security forces in June is a "case-in-point, the result of years of patient preparatory operations."
The report, obtained in advance by Fox News, was published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, an independent, privately funded research group. It was written by Michael Knights, with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The report pointed to a long trail of warning signs, after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "re-booted" the organization in 2010. The report said it has developed a "highly-motivated cadre of light infantry forces" since 2012, while launching major attacks like a wave of car bombs across multiple cities that lasted until the end of 2013.
Despite these warning signs, President Obama earlier this year compared ISIS and related groups to a "jayvee team" during an interview with The New Yorker.
The White House has since defended those remarks, claiming the president was not referring only to the Islamic State. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also claimed earlier this month that the network indeed "has gained capacity in the last several months."
Rhodes said the Islamic State poses "a greater threat today than they did six months ago."