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Pentagon Expands Inquiry Into Intelligence on ISIS Surge

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Iraqi gear littered the ground close to an Iraqi Army checkpoint east of Mosul on June 11, 2014, a day right after militants overran the city. Credit Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse â?? Getty Photos

WASHINGTON â?? When Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities last 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 analystsâ?? superiors made substantial alterations.

In the revised documents, the Iraqi Army had not retreated at all. The soldiers had basically â??redeployed.â?

Such adjustments are at the heart of an expanding internal Pentagon investigation of Centcom, as Central Command is identified, where analysts say that supervisors revised conclusions to mask some of the American militaryâ??s failures in coaching Iraqi troops and beating back the Islamic State. The analysts say supervisors were specifically eager to paint a much more optimistic picture of Americaâ??s part in the conflict than was warranted.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon inspector common seized a massive trove of emails and documents from military servers as it examines the claims, and has added far more investigators to the inquiry.

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Iraqi safety forces, training on Mosulâ??s outskirts in January to take on ISIS militants. Credit Azad Lashkari/Reuters

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 groupâ??s rise, as observed via the eyes of Centcom, which oversees military operations across the Middle East.

The exact content of these documents is unclear and might not grow to be public since so much of the details is classified. But military officials have told Congress that some of these emails and documents could have been deleted before they had to be turned over to investigators, according to a senior congressional official, who requested anonymity to speak about the ongoing inquiry. Current and former officials have separately produced comparable claims, on condition of anonymity, to The New York Times. Despite the fact that lawmakers are demanding answers about those claims, it is not clear that the inspector common has been capable to verify them. A spokeswoman for the inspector general declined to comment.

Staff members at the House Permanent Choose 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 other individuals. The committee is not just examining reports about Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State, but also about Afghanistan and other locations below Centcomâ??s purview. The insurrection inside Centcom is an critical chapter in the story of how the United States responded to the developing threat from the Islamic State. This past summer season, a group of Centcom analysts took issues about their superiors to the inspector common, 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 said difficulties in Iraq have been rooted in deep political and religious divides that could not very easily be solved with a military campaign, existing and former officials have mentioned. However Centcomâ??s official posture remained typically upbeat.

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The Islamic State emerged from a group of militants in Iraq to take more than big portions of Iraq and Syria, and now threatens other countries in Europe and elsewhere.

It is not clear whether the Centcom assessments significantly changed the Obama administrationâ??s views about ISIS. Although Centcom was largely constructive about American gains, other agencies have been much more pessimistic. The White House has normally been measured in its assessments.

But President Obama and senior intelligence officials have acknowledged that the Islamic Stateâ??s fast emergence caught them by surprise. At the least, the prospect that senior officials intentionally skewed intelligence conclusions has raised questions about how much Mr. Obama, Congress and the public can think the militaryâ??s assessments.

Those queries have taken on a new urgency given that the terror

The House Armed Services Committee chairman, Mac Thornberry, at a meeting in Washington last month. Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photos

â??Any time there is an allegation that intelligence is getting shaved in a certain way, or distorted in a certain way, thatâ??s a cause for significant concern,â? he stated.

Mr. Thornberry said that Congress has to be cautious not to impede the progress of the inspector generalâ??s investigators, but that lawmakers â??also have a job to do.â?

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 House Permanent Pick Committee on Intelligence, has been eager to expand his panelâ??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 may possibly be able to retrieve from Centcom servers.

At least a dozen countries have had attacks considering that the Islamic State, or ISIS, began to pursue a worldwide technique in the summer of 2014.

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For the moment, Mr. Nunes is creating the request with no the assistance of his Democratic counterpart, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California. Mr. Schiff mentioned concerns about skewed intelligence required to be taken â??very seriously,â? but that the inspector basic should be allowed to finish the inquiry just before the House intelligence committee deemed expanding its personal investigation.

The committee has asked the Pentagon for permission to interview officials, such as 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 past summer from Centcomâ??s longtime Iraq experts, led by Gregory Hooker, the senior Iraq analyst. In some approaches, the teamâ??s criticisms mirror these of a decade ago, when Mr. Hooker wrote a research paper saying the Bush administration, over many analystsâ?? objections, advocated a small force in Iraq and spent little time arranging for what would comply with the invasion.

Lawmakers originally mentioned that the Centcom investigation would be completed in weeks. But Pentagon investigators have discovered the work painstaking and it could span months. In addition to determining regardless of whether changes had been made to intelligence reports â?? and if so, who ordered them â?? the investigators, like the staff members of the House intelligence committee, are studying reports from other intelligence agencies created 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, mentioned that the command welcomed the inspector generalâ??s oversight and would respond to requests from Congress for information, and that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Centcom commander, would â??take suitable action once the investigation benefits have been received and reviewed.â?