“I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground,” he says, citing a 2011 report by an Afghan organization which noted that US military assessments routinely differ from those of other international military forces in the country and are “solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal.”
Defense analysts outside the Pentagon, for their part, have long grappled with disparities between official intelligence assessments and what they hear behind closed doors, but some argue that the tendency to “spin” is getting worse as US forces prepare to leave. “Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the US does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead,” writes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a piece cited by Davis.
Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted just such a gap, saying during a hearing that she was “concerned by what appears to be a disparity” in public testimony among Pentagon leaders about progress in Afghanistan and “the bleaker description” in classified intelligence reports.
Rather than deliberately mislead, military officers tend to emphasize the can-do spirit expected of career soldiers rather than problems that could be jeopardizing the war effort, when they are asked to speak publicly, some analysts note. Others may worry of the career-curbing impact of delivering news that those in power may not want to hear.