The Corner

National Security & Defense

Is the Military Cooking the Books to Make Our War Against ISIS Look More Successful Than It Is?

Could it be that military officials are reworking intelligence assessments to please civilian leadership? Are leaders in Centcom telling the Obama administration what it wants to hear? Possibly:

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.

The allegations, if true, are deeply disturbing. As the Times notes, intelligence disputes are common — and sometimes encouraged — but the investigation suggests there is credible evidence that someone is actually distorting intelligence reports. While some Obama administration leaders have been sharing optimistic assessments of the progress of the war, the Times suggests that the reality is much more grim:

But recent intelligence assessments, including some by Defense Intelligence Agency, paint a sober picture about how little the Islamic State has been weakened over the past year, according to officials with access to the classified assessments. They said the documents conclude that the yearlong campaign has done little to diminish the ranks of the Islamic State’s committed fighters, and that the group over the last year has expanded its reach into North Africa and Central Asia.

When an enemy actually holds territory, controls an army, and inspires terror worldwide, distorting intelligence to falsely portray progress is not only self-defeating (reality will eventually intrude), it’s dangerous. False perceptions of enemy weakness can lead to less vigilance and less preparation — rendering America and its allies more vulnerable to attack. So far we’ve been incredibly fortunate that terror attacks in Texas and Chattanooga haven’t been worse, but with so many soft targets in the United States how long will our good fortune last? Every day that ISIS is allowed to consolidate its hold over northern Syria and north and western Iraq is a day that it recruits new members, encourages ”lone wolf” attacks, and plans new offensives. 

I keep getting the ominous feeling that the clock is ticking on a truly significant terror attack, one that will leave our political leadership answering to the American people — why didn’t you do more to defeat the enemy? And if one answer is that Pentagon officials lied about success against ISIS, then courts-martial should be the response.

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