Over 50 intelligence analysts working in the U.S. military’s central command have complained that reports on ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Al-Nusra, are being doctored to fit a national narrative. The analysts, armed with substantive evidence, could pop holes in the U.S. military’s credibility in the war against terror. It could also redefine U.S involvement in Syria completely.
The complaints by over 50 military intelligence analysts compelled the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into reports doctoring at the military command. Two senior officials at CENTCOM, the U.S military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, signed the report and are the ones formally lodging it while over 50 analysts said they were ready to substantiate the report and all its concerns.
The analysts have complained of the politicizing of reports since last October. Authorities within CENTCOM’s command affirmed that the concerns were first leveled internally. Those who complained were either urged to retire early or urged to leave. It was then that they resorted to lodging a complaint to the inspector general.
In the report, details emerge of how key elements of reports were removed, resulting in documents that were incomplete and incomprehensive. Other details depict a structural fault in the command chain where documents that had a pessimistic view of the war in Syria were either passed back down the chain for a more favorable spinning or were simply not moved up the chain.
The analysts felt there was too much pressure to present a national-policy-friendly assessment of the situation in Syria, meaning they could not give a candid analysis of the war. Many attributed it to commanders seeking to protect their career advancement through placing spins on the wars.
The manipulated reports were not the only cause for alarm for the analysts. Some have described the working conditions within the U.S. military command as strained. Complaints on the unprofessional work environment set by CENTCOM superiors have been lodged, even terming some of the commanders as “Stalinist.”
Speaking on the recent report, CENTCOM Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder said, “While we cannot comment on the specific investigation cited in the article, we can speak to the process. The Intelligence Community routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments related to the current security environment. Senior civilian and military leadership consider these assessments during planning and decision-making, along with information gained from various other sources, to include the insights provided by commanders on the ground and other key advisors, intelligence collection assets, and previous experience.”
The presentation of manipulated intel would therefore go a long way in sabotaging the war on terror from within.
ISIS is spreading to large parts of Syria while Al Nusra recently captured the last Syrian military airbase in Idlib province northwest of Syria. The narrative back home is different. According to John Allen, retired Major general charged with spearheading the ISIS campaign, “ISIS is losing.” Emphasis on the right intel, rather than cherry picked reports, is required to win the war on terror.