On a rainy day in September 2014, President Obama
paid a visit to U.S. Central Command ( ) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida for a
briefing from General Lloyd Austin.
Among the topics was the training and
equipping of fragile Iraqi security forces to stop the explosive growth of
ISIS. The cost of the program was to be $1.2
After the hour-long briefing, the president
addressed the troops. “I just received a briefing from General Austin and
met with your commanders, met with representatives from more than 40
nations,” he said. “It is a true team effort here
But at the
assessments of the Iraqi security forces were regularly being altered by top
intelligence brass. Words like
“slow,” “stalled,” and “retreat” were changed to
“deliberate” and “relocated.” This had the effect of
painting a rosier picture in final reports delivered to General Austin and his staff.
didn’t stop there. In one instance, CENTCOM’s director of intelligence, Major General Steven R. Grove,
blocked a negative assessment of Iraq’s military from the President’s Daily Brief, a top secret intelligence summary viewed only by the
president and his closest advisers.
On Feb.19, 2015, the Pentagon’s defense intelligence agency concluded Iraqi security
forces wouldn’t be ready to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, before the
end of the year. In Tampa, CENTCOM’s Iraq analysts agreed.
But according to
sources, General Grove ordered the assessment kept out of the president’s brief
until after his boss, General Austin, testified to Congress about the Iraqis’
progress. In that testimony, Austin made the case for an additional $715 million for the