27 March 2015

Andrew Cockburn's Kill Chain - A Book Review

The attached book review is a slightly revised version of The Folly of Machine Warfare, which I wrote for Counterpunch in its March 27-29 edition.

Chuck Spinney

Book Review

Andrew Cockburn
Henry Holt and Co. (March 10, 2015)

Caveat emptor: the author of this book is a friend of thirty-five years, so I am biased, proudly so in this case.  While I know what Cockburn can do, I must admit I was literally blown away by this book. And I am no stranger to this subject, having worked as an engineer-analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon for 25 years.  

What makes Cockburn’s book so powerful, in my opinion, is not only his sourcing and detail (which are amazing), but the fact that he has written a book that is at once overwhelming in terms of information, yet so well written, it is accessible to the general reader.  It is a page turner.  He dissects the rise of drone warfare and examines its conduct in fascinating detail from the point of view of the targeteers in the CIA and the White House, to the controllers in front of video screens, and to the effects on the victims at the receiving end.  

In so doing, he shows how the ideology of drone warfare is really old wine in a new bottle: it is a natural evolution of three interconnected mindsets: (1) the flawed ideas underpinning the now-discredited theory of strategic bombing in WWII; (2) the search for perfect information embodied in disastrous all-knowing, all-seeing electronic battlefield (starting with McNamara’s electronic line of Vietnam); and (3) the search for surgical precision in both conflict and coercive diplomacy embodied, for example, in the simplistic targeting theories underpinning the drug war and the primitive escalate-the-pressure tactics of precision targeted sanctions.  At the roots of these three ideologies, I would argue, is an unchanging three-part set of propositions woven together in the 1930s by the evangelical instructors in the Army Air Corps Tactical School. They preached the theory of victory thru airpower alone, and they believed that only strategic bombing could justify an independent Air Force on a par with the Army and the Navy, with comparable or even larger budgets.

These future leaders of the AF constructed a seductive tautological argument, based on the fallacious assumptions of having extensive a priori knowledge of the enemy’s inner workings coupled to perfect combat intelligence.  It remains unchanged to this day and goes like this: (1) The enemy is a physical system or network made up of critical linkages and nodes, be they ball bearing works in Schweinfurt, Salafi fanatics in Iraq with access to cell phones and the internet, or Pashtun warlords in the hills of Afghanistan. (2) The enemy system can be reliably analyzed and understood from a distance, making it possible to exactly identify those specific nodes or links that are vital to the functioning of the adversary system, be it an industrial power like Germany, a tribal alliance in Yemen, or the financial links of a terrorist network or foreign oligarchy. (3) That past failures are irrelevant because new technologies will provide the wherewithal to attack and destroy these vital nodes or links with precision strikes and thereby administer a mortal wound to the adversary.  

In short, the conduct of war is an engineering problem: In the current lexicon of the Pentagon and its defense contractors, the enemy is a 'systems of systems' made up of high value targets (HVTs) that can be identified and destroyed without risk from a distance with unmanned systems, and the military-technical revolution makes any past failures irrelevant to current capabilities. The reasoning is identical to that described in the preceding paragraph.  Yet despite stridently confident predictions of decisive precision effects, from the days of the Norden bombsight in B-17s to those of the Hellfire missile fired by drones, this theory has failed over and over to perform as its evangelists predicted and are still predicting. The need to dismiss the history of repeated failures is why the never-ending promise of a military-technical revolution is central to the maintenance of the ideology.

Viewing war as an engineering problem focuses on technology (which benefits contractors) and destructive physical effects, but this ideology ignores and is offset by the fundamental truth of war: Machines don’t fight wars, people do, and they use their minds.  Our technology’s physical effects can be — and often are — offset or mitigated by our opponent’s mental counters or initiatives, reflecting both his adaptability and unpredictability, and his moral strengths, like resolve and the will to resist. Combat history has proven over and over that mental and moral effects can offset physical effects, for example, when the destruction of ball bearing factories did not have its predicted effects in WWII, when bicycles carrying 600 pounds of supplies were used to by pass destroyed bridges on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and when the Serbs used cheap microwave ovens to fool expensive anti-radiation missiles in Kosovo.  And as Cockburn shows, this has proven true again in the ongoing war on terror, and its mirror image, the war on drugs.  

Any one who doubts that this critique applies to drones used in a counter-terror strategy should be asked to explain the collapse in Yemen — a place where drones reached their apotheosis as the centerpiece of American counter-terror strategy. 

Cockburn has provided a highly readable, and logically devastating story, written from a bottom-up empirical perspective.  He explains why our strategy in Yemen was doomed to fail, as indeed it has in recent weeks. His meticulously referenced historical and empirical research makes this book hard to pick apart. No doubt, there are some small errors of fact.  For example, not all the drone/bombers deployed in ill starred Operation Aphrodite (which blew up JFK's elder brother) in 1944 were B-24s as Cockburn incorrectly suggests; the operation also used B-17s.  But I defy anyone to find a single thread or family of threads that can be used to unravel his tapestry. 

16 March 2015

An Excellent Summary of the Syrian Civil War

No end in sight for Syria war as conflict enters fifth year
Four years since the start of the conflict, Assad is emboldened as international attention is drawn to the threat of Islamic State
Middle East Eye, Sunday 15 March 2015 11:12 GMT
Syria’s conflict enters its fifth year on Sunday, with no end in sight to the fighting. 
More than 210,000 people have been killed and half of the country’s population displaced, prompting rights groups to accuse the international community of “failing Syria”.
The country now lies carved up by government forces, militant groups - including Islamic State - Kurdish fighters and the so-called moderate opposition. 
Diplomacy remains stalled, with two rounds of peace talks achieving no progress and even a proposal for a local ceasefire in Aleppo fizzling out.
The conflict began as an anti-government uprising, with small-scale protests, inspired by similar revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, taking place in Damascus in February.  
But things quickly spiralled when the government arrested and tortured a group of teenagers in the southern city of Deraa. In response, hundreds took to the streets in Damascus and Aleppo on 15 March. Several days later, on 18 March another protest broke out after Friday prayers in Deraa. Government forces once fired on the demonstrators, killing several people. The violence only prompted thousands to turn out the following day to attend the funerals of those killed. The government once again fired on the marchers, killing between one to six people according to activists. The government then released the teenagers on 21 March, but the deaths and the fierce crackdown prompted a militarisation of the uprising and its descent into today’s brutal multi-front conflict.
The consequences have been devastating.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR says Syria is now “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era”.
Around four million people have fled abroad, with more than a million taking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon.
Inside Syria, more than seven million people have been displaced, and the UN says around 60 percent of the population now lives in poverty.
The country’s infrastructure has been decimated, its currency is in freefall and economists say the economy has been set back some 30 years.

Assad government emboldened
Rights groups have documented horrific violations, with the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting this week that 13,000 people had been tortured to death in government detention since the uprising began.
Tens of thousands more remain in government jails and detention facilities, with many effectively disappearing after their arrest.
Despite international outrage at the death toll, and allegations that his government used chemical weapons against its own people in August 2013, President Bashar al-Assad has clung to power.
His forces have consolidated their grip on the capital Damascus and are moving to encircle rebels in the second city of Aleppo to the north.
The assaults have been aided by the government’s increasing reliance on crude explosives-packed barrel bombs, which Assad denies using despite extensive documentation.
His government is newly emboldened by both its military successes and an apparent shift in international rhetoric.
Calls for his resignation have been notably more muted as international attention shifts to the threat posed by the Islamic State group.
Diplomats describe a new willingness to countenance a role for Assad in Syria’s future, and even the rhetoric from key Assad opponent Washington has shifted.
On Friday, CIA director John Brennan said Washington was concerned that the “collapse” of Syria’s government could open the way for a IS takeover.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has also stressed that Washington’s top priority is defeating IS. 
Little prospect for peace
Last year, the United States assembled a coalition of nations to fight the group in Syria and Iraq, where IS rule a swathe of territory they have deemed an Islamic “caliphate”.

Air strikes, particularly in concert with the efforts of Kurdish fighters on the ground in Syria, have rolled back some IS gains, but the group continues to wield significant power.
It has grabbed international headlines with gruesome propaganda videos depicting the killings of journalists, aid workers and other civilians.
It has also attracted thousands of foreign fighters, many from the West, prompting concern about the prospect of attacks by returning militants.
Despite the international attention, there is little prospect of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Two rounds of UN-sponsored talks in Switzerland failed to achieve progress, and Staffan de Mistura, the third UN envoy to tackle the conflict, has gained little traction with his proposal for a localised ceasefire in Aleppo.
Russia, a key Assad ally, is floating its own dialogue process, and will host talks in Moscow in April, but it remains unclear if the internationally recognised opposition will attend.
On Thursday, a group of 21 rights groups denounced the international community for failing to implement UN resolutions and end the conflict.
“This is a betrayal of our ideals,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council group.


09 March 2015

How Tough is the Peshmerga?

The Peshmerga, manned by Sunni Kurds, is generally considered to be the West’s toughest and most reliable bulwark against Isis in Iraq.  But for reasons explained by Patrick Cockburn below, that belief may reflect more of a hope than a strategic reality.

War with Isis: The Kurdish Tiger's roar is worse than its bite - the Peshmerga have come to rely on US air strikes
World View: With militant fighters at the gate, the former boom town of Irbil is full of refugees and abandoned buildings
BY PATRICK COCKBURN, Independent, 8 March 2015
[Reposted with permission of the author]
“They are like the Mongols,” says Najmaldin Karim, speaking of the forces of Islamic State (Isis) battering at the defences of the oil province of Kirkuk, of which he is governor. They have not broken through and he is confident they will not do so, but the threat they pose and the fear they cause is the dominant feature of life even in those parts of northern Iraq they did not conquer last year.
In terms of the terror that Isis inspires through the savagery of its actions, it does indeed have much in common with the Mongolian horsemen who destroyed Baghdad and slaughtered its inhabitants in 1258. Isis similarly cultivates an atmosphere of fear among its enemies, so that the Iraqi army disintegrated when Isis forces stormed Mosul last June and much the same thing happened when they attacked the supposedly more resolute Iraqi Peshmerga in Sinjar and Nineveh Plain a few months later.
The swift victories of Isis at that time gave the impression of a demonic and unstoppable force. In the eyes of Isis leaders, military successes far beyond what they had expected simply affirmed that they were carrying out God’s work and had divine support. Less attention was given to the weaknesses of the states and armies which Isis had so easily defeated. But it is on their ability to learn from past failings that the outcome of the war now being fought in Iraq and Syria will be determined.
Criticism of Isis’s opponents and their dismal performance on the battlefield has mainly focussed on the Baghdad government. There is no doubt that its corruption and sectarianism played into the hands of Isis. Less attention is given as to why the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), supposedly far tougher and better commanded, fled from the Isis attack in August even faster than the Iraqi army in June. Yazidi villagers from Sinjar and Christians from the Nineveh Plain complain bitterly that they were abandoned by Peshmerga units whom only hours earlier had sworn to defend them to the last drop of their blood. It was one of the most shameful defeats in history.
The KRG has always got a better press than the Baghdad government, particularly since its oil boom got under way in the past five or six years. It presented itself as “the other Iraq”, which functioned properly, and Kurdish leaders invariably disparaged the central government in Baghdad as crooked and dysfunctional. They pointed to new five-star hotels, shopping malls, roads, bridges and apartment buildings sprouting on every street in Irbil, the Kurdish capital. There was a boom town atmosphere, and there were very few places on earth of which this could be said in the wake of the financial crash of 2008. Delegations of foreign businessmen, many of whom could not have found Iraqi Kurdistan on the map a couple of years earlier, poured into Irbil. Local managers complained that they could not find rooms for them despite all the new hotels. It seemed to go to the heads of Kurdish leaders who spoke of KRG becoming like an oil state in the Gulf, a landlocked version of Dubai.
Visiting KRG a couple of years ago, I felt that it was alarmingly similar in mood to Ireland pre-2008 at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom. The Kurds and the Irish are both small nations who feel they have been hard done-by throughout their history. Now they had thrown off foreign oppression and were getting rich like their neighbours. In Irbil as in Dublin it was a feeling conducive to delusion and a belief that “the Kurdish tiger” would bound forward for ever.
What those plane-loads of over-optimistic foreign government ministers and businessmen never understood was how fragile all this was. There was more in common between the ways in which the KRG and the rest of Iraq were ruled than they imagined. The Kurds depended on their 17 per cent share of Iraq’s oil revenues to pay the one in three of the labour force that worked for the government. Corruption was rife. A friend told me that he lived in part of Irbil surrounded by director generals working for the government: “I have a higher salary than any of them, but they have houses three times bigger than mine.” One Kurdish woman told me: “I call it ‘Corruptistan’.” For all the new five-star hotels, it was difficult to find a good school or hospital.
KRG was always flattered by any comparison with Baghdad. “Ease of doing business in Irbil compared to Baghdad is very good,” a businessman told me in early 2013. “Compared to the rest of the world it is rubbish.”
What really made Iraqi Kurdistan different from the rest of Iraq was that security was good, and it felt safe. Kurds and foreigners alike never seemed to look at a map and notice that they lived an hour’s drive from some of the most violent places on the planet. Mosul is only 50 miles from Irbil and has never been other than an extraordinarily dangerous city since 2003.
The belief that Iraqi Kurdistan is the safe part of Iraq was punctured when Isis captured Mosul last June. Even then, the Kurdish leadership deluded itself that what had happened was a Sunni-Shia battle in which they could stay on the sidelines and even benefit by opportunistically taking over Arab-Kurdish disputed areas. In August, they discovered they had made a calamitous error when Isis launched an ambitious offensive that came close to capturing Irbil. The United States and Iran rushed to help, while the KRG’s new ally, Turkey, found itself unable to.
Irbil today looks like Pompeii or Herculaneum in which a sudden disaster – in the Kurds’ case military rather than volcanic – has frozen all activity. The city is full of half-completed hotels, shopping malls and apartment buildings. Some of these are crammed full of refugees living in huts provided by the UN High Commission for Refugees. These are the people who are paying the price for the Kurdish leadership’s delusions of grandeur and security. Overall, there are 1.2 million extra internally displaced people and Kurdish refugees from Syria in KRG since last June. Kurdish leaders claim credit for giving them refuge, but many of those who have lost their homes blame those same leaders for underestimating the Isis threat when it was containable.
The Peshmerga have made successful counter-attacks, taking back much of Sinjar, but Mosul and its surroundings remain firmly under Isis rule and, so long as this continues, the KRG will remain fundamentally insecure. Crucial to the Peshmerga advances have been US air strikes, and it is noticeable in visits to the frontline how dependent the Peshmerga is on US air power.
This staves off the prospect of total defeat, but the future of the Iraqi Kurds still looks grim even if it is not as bad as it looked last August when many in Irbil started to flee the city just as they had done in 1991 during Saddam Hussein’s counter-offensive. Whatever happens, as in Ireland after 2008, the days of the “Kurdish tiger” are truly over.

05 March 2015

The long history of Israel gaming the 'Iranian threat'

Years before his recent grandstanding in Congress, Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders conjured a threat where one previously didn’t exist

Gareth Porter, Middle East Eye, Thursday 5 March 2015 17:01 GMT

[Posted with permission of author and credit to Middle East Eye.  Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Western news media has feasted on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk and the reactions to it as a rare political spectacle rich in personalities in conflict. But the real story of Netanyahu’s speech is that he is continuing a long tradition in Israeli politics of demonising Iran to advance domestic and foreign policy interests. 
The history of that practice, in which Netanyahu has played a central role going back nearly two decades, shows that it has been based on a conscious strategy of vastly exaggerating the threat from Iran.
In conjuring the spectre of Iranian genocide against Israelis, Netanyahu was playing two political games simultaneously. He was exploiting the fears of the Israeli population associated with the Holocaust to boost his electoral prospects while at the same time exploiting the readiness of most members of US Congress to support whatever Netanyahu orders on Iran policy.
Netanyahu’s primary audience was the Israeli electorate. He was speaking as a candidate for re-election as prime minister in an election that is just two weeks away. His speech was calculated to play on the deep-rooted anxiety of Israeli voters about the outsiders who may want to destroy the Jewish people.

Fear of the Persians
Netanyahu reminded his Israeli audience that, “In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people.” That was an obvious allusion to the annual Jewish ritual at Passover of repeating the warning that “in every generation they have risen up against us to annihilate us”.  But Netanyahu drew a parallel between the story in the book of Esther about a “powerful Persian viceroy…who plotted to destroy the Jewish people 2,000 years ago” and “another attempt by another Persian potentate to destroy us”.
Netanyahu was taking advantage of what former Israeli deputy national security adviser Chuck Freilich calls the “Holocaust Syndrome” or “Masada complex” that is woven into the fabric of Israeli politics. His ranting about an Iran intending to wipe out the entire country has appealed especially to his Likud constituency and other Israelis who believe that the outside world is “permanently hostile” to the Jewish people. 
Other Israeli prime ministers have played the Holocaust card for domestic purposes too. Yitzhak Rabin actually started it during his tenure as Prime Minister from 1992 to 1995, pointing to the alleged “existential threat” from Iran in order to justify his policy of negotiating with the PLO. It was also Rabin who established the propaganda theme of Iran as a terrorist threat to Jews across five continents that Netanyahu continues to cite today. 
Phantom of genocide
Later, however, Netanyahu would use the alleged Iranian threat to do exactly the opposite – refuse to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. Many former senior military and intelligence officials have never forgiven Netanyahu for what they consider a reckless policy toward Iran that they link to his failure to deal with the Palestinian problem.
The demonisation of Iran has also served Netanyahu’s political interest in manipulating the policy of the US government and other other world powers. By portraying Iran as bent on the genocide of the Israeli Jews, Netanyahu has sought to get the Americans to threaten war against Iran, hoping for a real military confrontation that would lead to actual war with Iran that would reduce that country’s power. A key element in Netanyahu’s manipulation of the United States and other states has been the suggestion that it if they don’t take care of the problem he may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.  
He has failed to achieve that maximum objective, but he has been successful in his lesser objective of getting the United States to organise a system of “crippling sanctions” against Iran.
Rabin and the nuclear threat
The portrayal of Iran as a serious threat to Israel’s existence has been serving Israeli diplomatic interests ever since Rabin reversed more than a decade of low-key policy toward the Islamic Republic and suddenly began claiming that Iran would have nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting Iran within three to seven years and appealed to the United States to stop it. The government even hinted in January 1995 that it might have to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors (Iran had only one) as it had done against Iraq 12 years earlier.
Rabin, who did view Iran as a threat to Israel in the long run, deliberately exaggerated that threat, as one of his advisors later acknowledged, in part to ensure that the United States would continue to see Israel as its irreplaceable ally in the Middle East and not be tempted to come to terms with Iran. In fact, as Rabin’s director of Mossad recalled two decades later, Israeli intelligence still considered Iran to rank much lower than Iraq and other threats to Israel during Rabin’s tenure, because Iran was still preoccupied with Iraq and would have no missile that could reach Israel for many years.
Mossad has also repudiated Netanyahu’s political manipulation of the Iran threat.  Since 2012, at least Israeli intelligence has agreed with US intelligence that Iran has not made any decision to try to acquire nuclear weapons. And a series of Mossad chiefs have taken the unprecedented step openly rejecting Netanyahu’s use of the term “existential threat”.
'Existential danger' dismissed by Mossad
Tamir Pardo, the current chief of Mossad, has said that a nuclear Iran would not necessarily pose an existential threat to Israel even if it did acquire nuclear weapons. His predecessor Meir Dagan, who has made no secret of his disdain for Netanyahu’s handling of policy toward Iran as dangerously reckless, said flatly in 2012, that “Israel faces no existential threat,” and another previous Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, has also criticised Netanyahu for talking about an “existential threat” from Iran.
Interestingly, Netanyahu stopped using the term in his AIPAC and congressional speeches, while continuing to make the claim that Iran has genocidal intentions toward Israel.
Netanyahu’s dishonesty on the subject of Iran is best documented by the fact that he was so persuaded by Mossad’s briefing on the subject when he first became prime minister in 1996 that he appointed the Mossad briefer, Uzi Arad, as his national security adviser and abandoned the Labor government’s exaggerated depiction of the threat from Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes. For six months the Israeli government stopped claiming that Iran was threatening Israel.
Israel's fear of US-Iran rapprochement
What induced Netanyahu to start selling the snake oil of Iran as menace to Israel was not any new evidence of Iranian interest in nuclear weapons or hostility toward Israel. It was the fear of a rapprochement between the Clinton administration and the newly elected Khatami government and the hope of depriving Iran of what was assumed to be Russian assistance for building missiles that could reach Israel.
Netanyahu was alarmed by the signals from both Tehran and Washington in the summer of 1997 indicating interest in reducing tensions between the two countries. That would have represented a real threat to Israel’s political and strategic interests, and he was determined to cut it short. Netanyahu’s response was to start to begin sending messages to Iran through other governments that Israel would carry out pre-emptive strikes against Iranian missile development sites unless it stopped its ballistic missile programme.   
It was a reckless tactic that would not cause Iran to stop working on missiles, but could well provoke a much tougher Iranian public posture toward Israel. That, in turn, would allow Netanyahu to put pressure on the Clinton administration to steer clear of any warming relations with Iran.   
Netanyahu’s indirect threats did cause Iran to focus much more on the potential threat from Israel in its missile programme, making Iran and Israel strategic adversaries for the first time. Netanyahu bears personal responsibility for having created a conflict with Iran that had never existed before. But it is not the conflict that he has been alleging all these years.

02 March 2015

Stalingrad on the Tigress II

Did the MILCRATs Head Off a Disaster?
My earlier posting on this subject argued that CENTCOM’s planned attack on the Mosul was ‘a bridge too far’ because (1) the long distance to be traversed through hostile Sunni territory by 25,000 untested Shi’a troops would leave the Iraqi army increasingly vulnerable to a welter of flank attacks in an offensive that would necessarily stretch into the debilitating heat of the summer; (2) the movement would expose Baghdad and elsewhere to spoiling attacks by ISIS; and (3) the Kobani model of fixing ISIS troops with a ground attack on a symbolic city and then using airpower to bomb ISIS to smithereens simply did not apply to the far larger urban sprawl of Mosul. 
Nancy Youssef now reports that saner heads have prevailed and this mad plan is now on indefinite hold.
There may be more to this bizarre episode that meets the eye, however.  
Everyone knows the American military is obsessed with secrecy.  That suggests an obvious question: Why would planners in CENTCOM’s headquarters  violate the principle of “loose lips sink ships”?
Youssef’s original report suggested that CENTCOM sources told her they were trying to ”psych out”  ISIS.  Youssef  is one of the better reporters covering the Middle East, so there is no reason to question her characterization of this “leak.”  But the rationale rings hollow.  ISIS’s shocking mix of blitzkrieg and psy-ops over last summer makes it difficult to believe that CENTCOM planners could be so naive as to believe that a bombastic threat would out psych ISIS.  
What gives?
Only time will answer this question.  But there is one obvious hypothesis that bears thinking about: Namely, the bureaucratic hypothesis that loose lips are sometimes intended to sink the ship.  
Such a hypothesis might go something like this:  Perhaps the military was being pressured to retake Mosul by civilian political operatives in the US national security apparat — operatives who were eager to deflect partisan criticism for the heretofore lackluster conduct in Obama’s war to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.  Retaking Mosul would undo one of the crown jewels of ISIS’s blitzkrieg.  That would hand the Obama administration a spectacular victory.  
But rather than taking the high road of threatening to resign in protest over such an amateurish plan, the seasoned MILCRATs in the office of the Joint Chiefs and/or CENTOM did what they are really good at doing: that is to say, they decided to increase their political leverage by leaking the plan to the press, knowing that the leak would cause the plan to self destruct.  The military would be off the hook, the civilian pol-mil hacks put in their place, and the Pentagon’s allies on Capitol Hill given an issue to exploit in the looming policy war over the defense budget.
No doubt, there are other legitimate hypotheses to explain this weird episode, but the preceding speculation is certainly consistent with the kind of antics and bureaucratic gamesmanship I saw repeatedly in the Pentagon during my 25 years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  
There is one litmus test for this hypothesis: Will CENTCOM go on witch hunt to find the ‘leaker’?  After all, in a military culture where A-10 pilots can be accused of treason for leaking the merits of their own plane, a leak of this magnitude — if not ‘authorized’ — would certainly qualify as treason.