Did U.S. officials downplay ISIS’s strength?

Intelligence was altered to show more progress against ISIS

(CNN) – The Pentagon is now estimating some 45-thousand ISIS terrorists have been killed since coalition operations began more than two years ago.

This comes as CNN obtained a copy of a Congressional report alleging that U.S. military officials, as recently as last year, painted a rosier picture of the U.S. led fight against ISIS, contradicting what some saw as the battlefield reality.

As ISIS invaded Ramadi last year, Iraqi troops fled the city, all seemingly catching the pentagon off guard.

According to U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, “They showed that failure of a will to fight.”

But evidence suggests that it should not have been a surprise.

CNN Military Analyst, Col. Cedric Leighton, said, “Our political leadership believed certain things and they didn’t want to change those beliefs. Intelligence analysts looked at empirical evidence, they tried to bring that intelligence to the attention of senior leaders and that effort appears to have been rejected.”

Now, an investigation by Republican Congressional members into a whistleblower complaint has found intelligence was altered to show more progress against ISIS than the intelligence warranted.

According to Congressional staffers, senior military intelligence officials at the U.S. Central Command, which was running the war, did edit and change intelligence reports.

It’s not clear if there was political pressure, but investigators found commanders decided to rely on operational reports from the front lines.

The report says, “Deference to operational reporting resulted in analysis that was more positive,” regarding both Iraqi forces and ISIS.

Col. Cedric Leighton noted that, “The operational reports that are passed up the chain of command, really reflect our side of the battle. They don’t necessarily reflect what the enemy is doing or if they show that, they are only going to show a part of that.”

Different views of the intelligence have erupted into the public arena, according to the Congressional staffers.

On March 3rd, 2015, the then-head of Central Command spoke of ISIS in personal terms, referring to it as “He”.

Former Central Command Commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin, said, “The fact is that he can no longer do what he did at the outset, which is to seize and to hold new territory. He has assumed a defensive crouch in Iraq.”

Ten days later, the director of the CIA had a more dire view.

CIA Director John Brennan, said, “ISIL is well-armed and well-financed. Its fighters are disciplined, committed, and battle-hardened.”

Then in May 2015, ISIS seized Ramadi. It would be months before Iraqi forces got the city back.

Copyright 2016 CNN

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