WASHINGTON — When Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities final year, analysts at United States Central Command wrote classified assessments for military intelligence officials and policy makers that documented the humiliating retreat of the Iraqi Army. But just before the assessments have been final, former intelligence officials stated, the analysts’ superiors produced substantial modifications.
In the revised documents, the Iraqi Army had not retreated at all. The soldiers had simply “redeployed.”
Such modifications are at the heart of an expanding internal Pentagon investigation of Centcom, as Central Command is recognized, where analysts say that supervisors revised conclusions to mask some of the American military’s failures in training Iraqi troops and beating back the Islamic State. The analysts say supervisors had been especially eager to paint a more optimistic image of America’s function in the conflict than was warranted.
In current weeks, the Pentagon inspector common seized a big trove of emails and documents from military servers as it examines the claims, and has added more investigators to the inquiry.
The attacks in Paris final week were a deadly demonstration that the Islamic State, when a group of militants focused on seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, has broadened its focus to attack the West. The electronic files seized in the Pentagon investigation inform the story of the group’s rise, as observed by way of the eyes of Centcom, which oversees military operations across the Middle East.
The precise content material of those documents is unclear and might not turn out to be public due to the fact so much of the info is classified. But military officials have told Congress that some of these emails and documents could have been deleted ahead of they had to be turned over to investigators, according to a senior congressional official, who requested anonymity to speak about the ongoing inquiry. Present and former officials have separately created similar claims, on situation of anonymity, to The New York Instances. Despite the fact that lawmakers are demanding answers about these claims, it is not clear that the inspector general has been in a position to confirm them. A spokeswoman for the inspector common declined to comment.
Employees members at the House Permanent Pick Committee on Intelligence are also poring more than years of Centcom intelligence reports and comparing them to assessments from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others. The committee is not just examining reports about Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State, but also about Afghanistan and other places below Centcom’s purview. The insurrection inside Centcom is an crucial chapter in the story of how the United States responded to the increasing threat from the Islamic State. This previous summer, a group of Centcom analysts took issues about their superiors to the inspector basic, saying they had evidence that senior officials had changed intelligence assessments to overstate the progress of American airstrikes against the Islamic State, also identified as ISIS.
The analysts mentioned difficulties in Iraq had been rooted in deep political and religious divides that could not effortlessly be solved with a military campaign, present and former officials have stated. Yet Centcom’s official posture remained normally upbeat.
It is not clear no matter whether the Centcom assessments substantially changed the Obama administration’s views about ISIS. Even though Centcom was largely good about American gains, other agencies have been more pessimistic. The White Residence has normally been measured in its assessments.
But President Obama and senior intelligence officials have acknowledged that the Islamic State’s fast emergence caught them by surprise. At the least, the prospect that senior officials intentionally skewed intelligence conclusions has raised concerns about how considerably Mr. Obama, Congress and the public can think the military’s assessments.
These inquiries have taken on a new urgency because the terror attacks in Paris, which signaled a new determination by ISIS to carry out terror attacks beyond the territory in Iraq and Syria it has declared its “caliphate.” Stress has grown on the White Home to articulate a a lot more muscular strategy for dismantling the group, and a chorus of Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are calling for an American ground campaign in Syria.
Senior lawmakers have begun their own inquiries into the military’s intelligence apparatus. Representative Mac Thornberry, the Republican from Texas who is chairman of the Residence Armed Services Committee, said in an interview that his committee was examining intelligence assessments from Centcom and other military commands to see if there was a systemic issue of dissenting voices getting muffled by senior military commanders.
“Any time there is an allegation that intelligence is being shaved in a particular way, or distorted in a specific way, that is a trigger for significant concern,” he mentioned.
Mr. Thornberry stated that Congress has to be careful not to impede the progress of the inspector general’s investigators, but that lawmakers “also have a job to do.”
On Thursday, Foreign Policy reported that a group of Republican lawmakers will be focusing on whether Centcom also skewed intelligence assessments about Afghanistan.
Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the Residence Permanent Choose Committee on Intelligence, has been eager to expand his panel’s inquiry into the Centcom assessments. Mr. Nunes is planning to send a letter to the inspector common on Monday asking if emails and documents relevant to the investigation have certainly been deleted. He is also asking for copies of any deleted materials that investigators might be in a position to retrieve from Centcom servers.
For the moment, Mr. Nunes is producing the request with out the support of his Democratic counterpart, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California. Mr. Schiff mentioned concerns about skewed intelligence required to be taken “very seriously,” but that the inspector general need to be allowed to finish the inquiry ahead of the House intelligence committee regarded expanding its own investigation.
The committee has asked the Pentagon for permission to interview officials, like the two most senior intelligence officers at Centcom, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman. The request was denied by Pentagon officials, citing the ongoing internal investigation.
That investigation was prompted by complaints this previous summer from Centcom’s longtime Iraq professionals, led by Gregory Hooker, the senior Iraq analyst. In some approaches, the team’s criticisms mirror those of a decade ago, when Mr. Hooker wrote a study paper saying the Bush administration, more than many analysts’ objections, advocated a modest force in Iraq and spent little time organizing for what would follow the invasion.
Lawmakers initially mentioned that the Centcom investigation would be completed in weeks. But Pentagon investigators have identified the work painstaking and it could span months. In addition to determining whether changes were made to intelligence reports — and if so, who ordered them — the investigators, like the employees members of the House intelligence committee, are studying reports from other intelligence agencies produced at the time to figure out what was truly occurring in Iraq and Syria when the reports have been written.
Col. Patrick Ryder, a Centcom spokesman, stated that the command welcomed the inspector general’s oversight and would respond to requests from Congress for info, and that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Centcom commander, would “take proper action as soon as the investigation outcomes have been received and reviewed.”
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