An explosive report in Monday’s Washington Post suggests that government officials have been lying to the American public about progress made in the war in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, distorting statistics and offering rosy assessments instead of acknowledging the difficulty of the undertaking.
The criticism of the American war effort came from hundreds of generals, ambassadors, and former officials in the administrations of three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The officials told interviewers with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, that the Afghan war effort has been fatally flawed and the government has wasted billions of dollars trying to rebuild the country.
Vietnam had Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. Afghan War has today’s WashPost blockbuster, revealed after prolonged legal battle. https://t.co/TzyIeDYQvx— Robert McCartney (@McCartneyWP) December 9, 2019
“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”
The Post obtained the records under the Freedom of Information Act following a three-year court battle with SIGAR, which was created by congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone.
Most of the officials were speaking with SIGAR investigators under the assumption that their comments would never become public. Some of the information gleaned in the interviews was published in a series of seven “Lessons Learned” reports generated by SIGAR, but the harshest criticism of the war was said to be omitted from those accounts.
The documents are said to contradict public statements about the war by U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats. The officials interviewed reportedly told SIGAR that there were deliberate efforts to mislead the public and distort statistics to make it appear that the United States was winning the war.
The Post says that since 2001, the Defense Department, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have spent between $934 billion and $978 billion in Afghanistan. Pentagon figures put the number of American service members who have died there at 2,300, with 20,589 more wounded in action.