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Pentagon auditor says U.S. military did not falsify intelligence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Pentagon report published on Wednesday found that leaders at U.S. Central Command, which oversees combat operation in the Middle East and South Asia, did not distort or exaggerate progress being made in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The findings contradict a Republican congressional report last year that said 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.

The congressional report found "widespread dissatisfaction" among analysts at Tampa-based Central Command who felt their superiors were distorting their research.

Central Command directs the American military missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and South Asia. Its analysts typically assess intelligence such as potential targets for bombing and an enemy's strength.

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The Pentagon inspector general's report, released on Wednesday, said that it could not substantiate accusations that leaders at Central Command "intended to distort intelligence products or that their changes to intelligence products resulted in a false narrative or systematic distortion of intelligence."

However, the probe said that weaknesses in the management process contributed to the perception that senior intelligence leaders were distorting intelligence to present a more positive picture.

It added that a lack of communication and guidance affected morale.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell)