Trouble is brewing at US Central Command (CENTCOM), the Pentagon’s agency covering security interests in nations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
According to a report from The Daily Beast, more than 50 intelligence analysts at CENTCOM have formally complained that reports on ISIS and al-Nusra Front — al-Qaeda’s Syria branch — have been repeatedly altered by senior intelligence officials to correlate to the Obama Administration’s insistence that the US is winning the war against the two militant groups.
A written complaint was sent in July by two CENTCOM senior analysts to the Defence Department Inspector General, an independent agency that provides oversight to the Department of Defence. The complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, according to The Daily Beast.
Eleven individuals knowledgeable about the details of the complaint told The Daily Beast that the complaint alleges crucial parts of intelligence reports were taken out, analysts were subject to an environment where they did not feel able to give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria, and sometimes too-negative reports were sent back to analysts.
Questions remain about why CENTCOM officials have gone to such lengths to alter reports on ISIS — assuming The Daily Beast’s report is accurate — when the picture painted by the media, independent analysts, and even some of the administration’s own officials is convoluted at best and pessimistic at worst.
In late July, the AP reported that assessments by the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency and others found that ISIS is no weaker than it was when US bombing began in 2014.
“We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers,” a defence official told the AP.
Meanwhile, John Allen, the retired Marine general coordinating the campaign against ISIS, said bluntly “ISIS is losing,” while speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in late July. At the same forum, FBI director James Comey sent a mixed message by calling ISIS “the threat that we’re worrying about in the homeland most of all.”
Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst, wrote in Foreign Policy in August that the war against ISIS in Iraq has been “slowing down.”
“The best that can be reasonably expected in 2015 is the stabilisation of the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah,” Knights wrote. “No one even talks about liberating Iraq’s second-most populous city, Mosul, anymore.”
Mosul is a major stronghold for ISIS in Iraq that used to be a top priority for US plans to defeat ISIS.
“At this rate, the United States will still be in Iraq when U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office — an outcome no one, especially the president, wants,” Knights wrote.
Brookings Institute fellow Charles Lister recently wrote a similarly negative assessment of the war on ISIS. Lister noted that “progress thus far can best be described as a series of loosely linked tactical gains, rather than a significant strategic advance.”
“The stated coalition objective is to ‘degrade and destroy’ IS as a militant organisation, but it remains a potent armed force capable of capturing valuable territory and inflicting considerable material damage on its adversaries,” Lister wrote. “… IS is clearly a determined enemy and poses a potent threat that the current coalition strategy is failing to effectively ‘degrade and defeat.'”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.