Something from the lighter side of the news while we await updates on more serious matters, like the feud between Donald Trump and Fox.
There are many ominous things about this story but none more than this: Everyone understands that we haven’t made much progress against ISIS. It’s no secret. If Centcom’s cooking the books to put a happier face on a war effort whose public face is already decidedly unhappy, just how bad is the real picture of what’s happening in Iraq and Syria?
The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.
The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said.
Fuller details of the claims were not available, including when the assessments were said to have been altered and who at Central Command, or Centcom, the analyst said was responsible. The officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity about classified matters, said that the recently opened investigation focused on whether military officials had changed the conclusions of draft intelligence assessments during a review process and then passed them on…
Legitimate differences of opinion are common and encouraged among national security officials, so the inspector general’s investigation is an unusual move and suggests that the allegations go beyond typical intelligence disputes.
The House and Senate Intel Committees have been notified about the investigation. Just think: When Obama inevitably tells us he found out the war was going badly when he read about it in the newspapers, he’ll actually be telling the truth this time.
As I say, not one month ago the AP ran a story entitled, “Despite bombing, Islamic State is no weaker than a year ago,” based on — ta da — assessments by American intelligence agencies. One defense official quoted in the report put it bluntly, saying, “We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers” since the bombing campaign began in 2014. Whatever Centcom allegedly thought it was achieving by making the mission’s progress sound rosier than it really is, no one seems to have been buying it. In which case, what was the point? The NYT suggests simple institutional bias: The Pentagon is tasked with winning wars, ergo Centcom’s going to err on the side of sanguinity when reporting how the effort’s going. But if, as many analysts believe, there’s no way to put a dent in the caliphate without ground troops, it’s in the military’s interest to accurately report how poorly they’re doing with air power alone. Sounding the alarm about being under-resourced is the surest way to get those resources, no matter how politically uncomfortable a troop build-up in Iraq would be for their boss. It’s already practically conventional wisdom among Republican candidates that troops should be deployed if that’s what it takes to roll “the caliphate” back. If you’re a DIA analyst, why sugarcoat what’s happening on the ground to avert that?