As the Pentagon’s Inspectors General continue to investigate reports that the Central Command (Centcom) deliberately skewed intelligence reports about the ISIS war to make the situation seem more upbeat, more details continue to emerge from military sources leaking to the press.
The latest reports go into great detail about a deliberate bias toward upbeat comments in making their reports, saying that the Centcom Intelligence Directorate made it very clear that bad news was “unwelcome” in their reports, and that anything negative sounding needed a minimum of 3-4 sources to even be considered for inclusion, while positive news didn’t need sourcing at all in most cases.
“The bad news didn’t just need to be footnoted,” one of the sources noted, “the intelligence data itself had to be attached to the report. It became pretty clear that if you wrote something bad, it was likely to be changed.”
They even provided an example of an initial report to Centcom about an ISIS offensive confirming that “Iraqi forces retreated.” After the report bounced around the directorate for awhile, they eventually issued the report with a claim that the Iraqi forces simply “reinforced” other locations further away from combat, when the truth was they’d flat out fled a battle.
The allegations first went public back in late August, when members of the Pentagon’s DIA reported bringing the matter to the Inspectors General. The IG investigation was ongoing before that, however, and they had found enough evidence in their initial investigation to inform both Congressional intelligence committees that there were “credible” claims the reports they received on ISIS had been deliberately skewed to sound better.
As the ones in charge of the war, Centcom is also in charge of the reports on the matter. Their initial defense in the allegations was that because of this, it was really up to them how to present the reports, but indications are that they made a point to alter any language from other sources inside the military that made it sound like the war was going poorly.
This actually explained a lot about the military’s reports on the ISIS war, to the extent they were made public, as they often included extremely negative facts, like a solid year of airstrikes not significantly weakening ISIS, inexplicably followed with a sugarcoated conclusion about how the war was going fine and “progress” was being made.
While this sort of thing is business as usual for bureaucrats looking to avoid recriminations for their failures, the upbeat reports on the war likely played a significant role in policy-makers deciding not to significantly alter their war strategy, even though the war was getting worse and worse all along.
The question could even be asked on whether this Centcom policy was restricted to ISIS, or even particularly unusual with respect to that war, as reports on the US occupation in Afghanistan, throughout the past 14 years, have continuously predicted “progress” that never panned out.