Pentagon Investigating Allegations Centcom Officials Skewed Intelligence Regarding Islamic State

Islamic State militants
Islamic State militants in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah / AP

The Pentagon’s inspector general has launched an investigation into whether officials in the military altered intelligence estimates about the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq to give a more favorable impression of progress.

The New York Times reported:

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.

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According to unnamed officials familiar with the probe, the investigation is zeroing in on whether Centcom officials altered conclusions of draft intelligence assessments during a review process and then moved them forward. It is unclear when or by whom the intelligence assessments were reworked.

Intelligence officials advised the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the matter over the past few weeks, after which the Pentagon’s inspector general decided to investigate the allegations.

Centcom spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder would not comment on the inquiry but insisted that "the I.G. has a responsibility to investigate all allegations made, and we welcome and support their independent oversight."

There have been notable inconsistencies in assessments of the U.S. campaign against IS (also known as ISIL or ISIS) by military officials, lawmakers and the Obama administration.

Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, the veteran general nominated to lead the Marine Corps, and former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recently characterized the campaign against IS as a "stalemate." Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.) has repeatedly said, "ISIS is winning."

FBI director James Comey called IS a "the threat that we’re worrying about in the homeland most of all" at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in July.

John Allen, the retired Marine general developing the campaign against IS, said the terrorist group "is losing." President Obama in July spoke of the "progress" against IS, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest touted "significant progress in terms of rolling back ISIL gains inside of Iraq" earlier this month.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Obama administration bomb campaign launched last year against IS has yielded no perceivable degradation of the terrorist organization’s forces.