United States government misled public on Afghan war

Clay Curtis
December 10, 2019

The Washington Post reported that in conclusion, the documents "contradict a long chorus of public statements from US presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting".

Now in its 19th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest one the USA has been engaged in, and the official line has always been a variation of "there's progress" or "we're turning a corner".

"We don't invade poor countries to make them rich", James Dobbins, a former senior USA diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. SIGAR has produced seven reports so far from the more than 400 interviews, and several more are in the works. They were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The documents quote officials close to the 18-year war effort describing a campaign by the US government to distort the grim reality of the war.

Retired Army colonel Bob Crowley, who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, reportedly said the "truth was rarely welcome" at military headquarters in Kabul. "Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone".

The Pentagon released a statement Monday saying there has been "no intent" by the department to mislead Congress or the public.

For example, the interviews "contain numerous admissions that the government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false", the Post said. "Most of the individuals interviewed spoke with the benefit of hindsight".

They reveal that the war, in which 2,300 US soldiers have been killed and almost $1 trillion has been spent, has become unwinnable.

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The Post said that John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, acknowledged that the documents show "the American people have constantly been lied to".

After a three-year legal battle, The Post obtains hundreds of records of candid interviews assessing the war in Afghanistan and its failures.

Democrats on Capitol Hill were quick to endorse the story's findings. Observers say the latest report may heighten calls for an early withdrawal of United States troops from the country.

No comprehensive US government accounting of war spending has been conducted. "We are never going to get the USA military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave". 2,400 American lives lost. An estimated 38,000 Afghan civilians were killed in that same time frame. Rumsfeld in 2003: "I have no visibility into who the bad guys are'".

Many officials said the "overall nation-building strategy was further undermined by hubris, impatience, ignorance and a belief that money can fix anything", according to the paper.

"2,400 lives lost", Douglas Lute, the three-star army general who led the war effort under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told interviewers working on the project in 2015, referring to the U.S. death toll in the war.

"What did we get for this one trillion dollar effort?" "We have had an authorization since 2001 to be in Afghanistan".

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