The perennial positivity of all public Pentagon assessments on the war against ISIS, despite major, glaring losses on the ground, has been a matter of no small controversy for awhile, and has also successfully kept the elected officials who are on the receiving end of those assessments maintaining the war strategy as-is.
Even the Pentagon is less confident in how this is happening these days, and the matter is now the subject of an internal investigation being carried out by the Inspectors General, focusing on Central Command (Centcom) deliberately “reworking” the conclusions of several assessments produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to seem more upbeat on the war.
According to one of the DIA analysts, the agency was providing “draft” versions of their analyses to Centcom, and Centcom was editing the conclusions wholesale to make the war sound like it was going better, then passing along the edited versions to policymakers.
Details of exactly which reports were the result of Centcom’s editing are as yet unclear, but it does explain why, in the wake of every major loss to ISIS, Centcom officials would start crowing about the great progress they are making and how overall, the war is on track.
Interestingly, it appears that the reports weren’t changed as a whole, but simply the conclusions were altered to put the whole thing in a better light, which would also explain why reports with clearly negative revelations, like the one about a solid year of US airstrikes not significantly weakening ISIS, were incongruously concluded with claims that the war is going fine.
According to officials familiar with the probe, the inspectors general formally informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in recent weeks about the “credible” claims of intelligence being deliberately skewed, and escalated the initial inquiry into a full-scale investigation.
Centcom is trying to downplay the situation, with Col. Patrick Ryder, the Centcom spokesman usually responsible for delivering these dubious claims of war progress, insisting the command “welcomes” the IG oversight of their intelligence.
Though Centcom is in theory allowed to alter intelligence assessments for clarity’s sake, they are explicitly forbidden from “distorting” them for the sake of agency agendas, and are supposed to acknowledge differing viewpoints on the matter, something conspicuously absent from the reports.
How much of this will ever go public is unclear, but the implications are potentially enormous, as both the White House insistence on staying the course in the war and Congressional talk of doubling down were predicated on these Pentagon assessments that the war was going more or less acceptably, and were subsequently deliberately misled by faulty conclusions being appended to reports which, conclusions aside, were painting the war as going worse and worse.