U.S. military was too positive on Islamic State fight: congress

By Patricia Zengerle and Idrees Ali

By Patricia Zengerle and Idrees Ali WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Central Command painted too rosy a picture of the fight against Islamic State in 2014 and 2015 compared with events on the ground and grimmer assessments by other analysts, according to a U.S. congressional report issued on Thursday. The report came from a task force established by the Republican chairmen of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Intelligence Committee and Defense Appropriations subcommittee. House Democrats, who have accused Republicans of launching repeated partisan investigations purely for political reasons, did not participate. They released findings from their own investigation on Thursday, including that Central Command's analysis system had flaws including insufficient accommodation of dissenting views. The Republican report found "widespread dissatisfaction" among analysts at Tampa-based U.S. Central Command who felt their superiors were distorting their research. Central Command is responsible for combat operations in the Middle East and South Asia. "What happened at CENTCOM is unacceptable – our warfighters suffer when bad analysis is presented to senior policymakers. We must continue our efforts until we fix it," Republican Representative Ken Calvert, a member of the task force, said in a statement. But neither the Republican nor Democratic investigation found evidence that President Barack Obama's administration tried to make the intelligence analysis conform to a political narrative. Islamic State was grabbing a swath of territory from Iraq into central Syria in 2014 and 2015, much of which it still holds. The partisan fight over Obama's plan for fighting the group has become a theme of the 2016 presidential campaign. Republican nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday ratcheted up rhetoric on the issue as he called Obama and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton the "co-founders" of Islamic State. Patrick Evans, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Department of Defense had initiated a separate investigation into the issue, and would take no action or make any comment that could influence the inspector general's work. A spokeswoman said the inspector general's office is completing its investigation and drafting its report. But Evans said the intelligence community routinely provides a wide range of assessments. "Experts sometimes disagree on the interpretation of complex data, and the intelligence community and Department of Defense welcome healthy dialogue on these vital national security topics," Evans said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Idrees Ali; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish)