“The growing scandal over cooked ISIS intelligence just got much worse,” reports The Daily Beast‘s Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef. The latest development: “analysts are saying they’re being forced out for not toeing the Obama administration’s line on the war.”
Harris and Yousseff have been doing some more digging on reports from the intelligence community that higher-ups were squashing intel that ran counter to President Obama’s positive narratives on the war on ISIS and his Syria campaign. According to three inside sources, two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command were “forced out” by the military in part because they questioned the Syrian rebel training program (a $500 million disaster that resulted in a mere 60 or so trained fighters, who were quickly dispatched by enemy forces).
The reported sidelining of the two analysts would be the “first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war.” One of the two forced out analysts headed CENTCOM’s Syria division and expressed “skeptical views” on the value of the since-failed Syria strategy.
The analysts’ skeptical views put them at odds with military brass, who last year had predicted that a so-called moderate opposition would make up a 15,000-man ground force to take on ISIS in its self-declared caliphate. An initial $500 million program to train and arm those fighters failed spectacularly. And until the very end, Pentagon leaders claimed the operation was more or less on track. Lawmakers called the plan a “joke” when Gen. Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM commander, finally testified last September that there were just “four or five” American-trained fighters in Syria.
This troubling, yet predictable, claims follow reports out of CENTCOM last year that military command had doctored intel on ISIS to protect Obama’s more positive spin on the struggling campaign. ISIS narrative. The new accusations widen the scope of the scandal to include the campaign in Syria.
“That analysts are now raising red flags around reporting on Syrian rebel groups suggests that, at least from the analysts’ perspective, there is a broader systemic problem than was previously known,” write Shane and Youssef.
The scandal involving the manipulated ISIS intelligence is currently under investigation by Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Read Shane and Youssef’s full report here.