(December 9, 2019) — The Washington Post has published a major report revealing the contents of confidential government documents compiled by a federal project to document, as the title of the project reads, the “Lessons Learned” from the war in Afghanistan.
After 18 years, 2,300 US dead, over 20,000 US wounded and nearly $1 trillion spent, the report came to a host of conclusions that can fairly be described as this: The war has been a failure. And the Pentagon and Bush and Obama officials worked extensively to mislead the public as to just how badly it was going.
John Sopko, chief of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, tells the Post that the underlying documents show that “the American people have constantly been lied to.”
Special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins told interviewers, “We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”
Among the Findings:
• The lack of an underlying objective — the point of the war, and what outcome would be sufficient to allow US forces to leave — stymied overall military strategy from the earliest days of the campaign.
• The US push to transform the Afghan government into a specifically American-styled, centralized democracy failed because it bore little resemblance to the institutions the population was familiar with. “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have,” reported one unidentified State Department official.
• The rush to spend money in the nation to build schools and other infrastructure resulted in such massive inflows of cash as to transform the nation into a kleptocracy. The “historic” levels of corruption by public officials, in turn, served to rally public support for the Taliban.
• American military officials have at no point considered the Afghan army and police to be capable of fending off the Taliban in the absence of US troops, even as the training of those institutions has long been a celebrated talking point through two US administrations. Military officials also stated that Afghan commanders funneled “salaries” for tens of thousands of nonexistent “ghost soldiers” into their own pockets.
By 2006, five years after the war’s beginning, a classified Pentagon report warned that “enormous popular discontent” was threatening the corrupt American-backed government, and that the Taliban was resurgent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon, however, hid the true state of the war from the public and instead published a glowing, manipulative report of supposed US successes.
Government officials and military officers from Gen. David Petraeus to Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would continue the same public effort to pretend at military progress even as Afghanistan became more violent.
We are likely to learn more from these papers; the Post reports it is continuing a legal battle to release the names of still-undisclosed interviewees. But the grimmest news is that, just as in Vietnam, it appears that both government and military manipulated the facts to “sell” the Afghanistan War to the American public, even as that war unraveled.
Sally M— Amazing that the WaPo has published these Afghanistan papers. One comment I would like to correct is from former US diplomat James Dobbins who is quoted as saying:
“We don’t Invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”
I believe the reason we invade any countries is to make their resources available to our corporations Could somebody tell Mr. Dobbins and the WaPo?
• The Afghan Papers: Officials Reveal Decades of Dishonesty and Confusion, The Washington Post. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/washington-post-afghan-papers-interviews-officials-reveal-decades-dishonesty-confusion.html
• The Afghan Papers: Confidential Documents, The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/
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