National Security

Cooking the Books on the Fight Against the Islamic State

Intelligence analysts say they were pressured to provide optimistic reports on ISIL.

Lewis Morris · Aug. 28, 2015
Analysts meet to prepare intel reports

News reports are circulating that intelligence analysts were pressured by senior Pentagon officials to skew their reports on the Islamic State to provide more optimistic assessments of U.S. progress against the terrorist group. The Pentagon’s inspector general has launched an investigation into the matter.

One member of the Defense Intelligence Agency came forward describing an orchestrated attempt to rework reports to offer a more optimistic assessment of the yearlong U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. Other members of the intelligence community have corroborated this view, adding that as reports worked their way up the chain of command they were changed to include more nuanced or vague conclusions that stepped back from providing one honest assessment: U.S. bombing alone was having no effect on the Islamic State’s military gains in Iraq.

Analysts who have come forward believe the pressure to cook these reports comes directly from Washington, and that there is a subtle yet pervasive force that wants everyone to believe the campaign against ISIL is working. A certain commander in chief depended on a similar false narrative to win re-election in 2012. These analysts also blame the leaders U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of the campaign, for not pushing back against policymakers in DC.

It’s not yet clear exactly who is directing analysts to cook these reports, but the view of those who have spoken fits with what we already know. Barack Obama has a long record of spinning a narrative of success while blaming others when things go wrong.

Obama has been wrong about Iraq and the Islamic State (and pretty much everything else) all along, so it makes sense that his administration would now actively engage in a cover-up to keep the public from realizing the depth of his blunder. His pullout from Iraq in 2011 was a purely political move meant to placate his base. He left despite numerous warnings from military leaders that a complete withdrawal would lead to chaos in Iraq, and a complete rollback of all the hard won gains the U.S. military made. Then, when Iraq fell apart, giving rise to the Islamic State, Obama glibly called ISIL a “JV team” and blamed the U.S. intelligence community when that JV team started taking over Iraq. He blamed commanders for a lack of strategy to combat the problem, even though he remained mum on the issue until he could no longer ignore it. His solution? Send some planes over to play an elaborate game of whack-a-mole to make it look like we were doing something while we in fact were accomplishing virtually nothing.

Retiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said just weeks ago, “If we had stayed a little more engaged [in Iraq], I think maybe [the Islamic State’s rise] might have been prevented.” In other words, we’re in this mess because Obama chose to “end” the war in Iraq rather than win it.

Obama’s politicization of the military and its role in protecting this country is at the heart of America’s huge fumble in Iraq and our diminishing power overseas. He is unconcerned about the plight of Christians in that region, uprooted by the failure of his policies. He cares not that thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives have been sacrificed for that nation’s safety and ours. He’s more interested in using the military as a social experiment than as a tool to secure America’s national interest.

The manufactured intelligence reports that offer rosy views of Obama’s strategy to combat the Islamic State hide one important fact: He has no strategy. Obama admitted as much last summer when he told reporters, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” He said the same thing just two months ago. “We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis,” Obama said. “And so the details of that are not yet worked out.”

Maybe he’s just waiting for better intelligence reports.

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