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Thread: The Afghanistan Papers - a secret history of the US's Afghanistan War

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    The Afghanistan Papers - a secret history of the US's Afghanistan War

    The Afghanistan Papers: Documents reveal U.S. officials knew the war had become unwinnable - Washington Post
    For 18 years, America has been at war in Afghanistan. As part of a government project to understand what went wrong, a federal agency interviewed more than 400 people who had a direct role in the conflict. In those interviews, generals, ambassadors, diplomats and other insiders offered firsthand accounts of the mistakes that have prolonged the war.

    The full, unsparing remarks and the identities of many of those who made them have never been made public — until now. After a three-year legal battle, The Washington Post won release of more than 2,000 pages of “Lessons Learned” interviews conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Those interviews reveal there was no consensus on the war’s objectives, let alone how to end the conflict.
    These "Afghanistan Papers" are like the "Pentagon Papers", a secret history of the Vietnam War which concluded that it was not very successful. Military strategist Daniel Ellsberg leaked those papers, and Richard Nixon's aides responded by burglarizing his psychiatrist's office, hoping to find anything that they could use against them.
    Year after year, U.S. officials failed to tell the public the truth about the war in Afghanistan.

    “The strategy became self-validating. Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible.”
    — Bob Crowley, retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser at U.S. military headquarters in Kabul from 2013 to 2014

    U.S. and allied officials admitted the mission had no clear strategy and poorly defined objectives.

    “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”
    — Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. defense secretary from 2001 to 2006

    Many years into the war, the United States still did not understand Afghanistan.

    “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing.”
    — Douglas Lute, Army lieutenant general who served as the White House’s Afghanistan war czar under Presidents Bush and Obama, then U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2013 to 2017

    The United States wasted vast sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan and bred corruption in the process.

    “You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption. You just can’t.”
    — Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan

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    The Afghanistan Papers - The Washington Post - Podcast on these papers
    When the United States attacked Afghanistan in October of 2001, the mission was simple: Defeat al-Qaeda and drive them out of the country that had harbored them as they plotted the 9/11 attacks.

    Al-Qaeda’s forces were driven out of Afghanistan in months, but the Americans stayed, and stayed. Now in its 19th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest one the U.S. has been engaged in, and the official line has always been a variation of “there’s progress” or “we’re turning a corner.” That, at least, was the public line.
    But the truth was very different, as they themselves recognized.

    How The Post obtained The Afghanistan Papers - The Washington Post

    It started with retired general Michael Flynn. WaPo reporters learned that he had given an unpublished interview where he had strongly criticized the Afghanistan War effort. Getting a hold of it required a 3-year legal battle, a battle that also yielded a large number of other documents.

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    Obviously this is all Russian propaganda.

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    U.S. officials misled the public about the war in Afghanistan, confidential documents reveal - Washington Post - "U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it. "
    A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

    The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

    ...
    “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.”

    — James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat

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    U.S. lacked a clear war strategy in Afghanistan, officials acknowledged in confidential documents - Washington Post - "Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail."
    In the beginning, the rationale for invading Afghanistan was clear: to destroy al-Qaeda, topple the Taliban and prevent a repeat of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Within six months, the United States had largely accomplished what it set out to do. The leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban were dead, captured or in hiding.

    But then the U.S. government committed a fundamental mistake it would repeat again and again over the next 17 years, according to a cache of government documents obtained by The Washington Post.

    In hundreds of confidential interviews that constitute a secret history of the war, U.S. and allied officials admitted they veered off in directions that had little to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11. By expanding the original mission, they said they adopted fatally flawed warfighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand.

    The result: an unwinnable conflict with no easy way out.

    ...
    “After ’03-04, once we were fully engaged in both wars, I can’t remember us ever saying, ‘Should we be there? Are we being useful? Are we succeeding?”

    — Nicholas Burns, a career U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to NATO under Bush

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    How U.S. efforts to rebuild Afghanistan backfired - Washington Post - "Despite vows the U.S. wouldn’t get mired in ‘nation-building,’ it’s wasted billions doing just that "
    George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all promised the same thing: The United States would not get stuck with the burden of “nation-building” in Afghanistan.

    In October 2001, shortly after ordering U.S. forces to invade, Bush said he would push the United Nations to “take over the so-called nation-building.”

    Eight years later, Obama insisted his government would not get mired in a long “nation-building project,” either. Eight years after that, Trump made a similar vow: “We’re not nation-building again.”

    Yet nation-building is exactly what the United States has tried to do in war-battered Afghanistan — on a colossal scale.

    Since 2001, Washington has spent more on nation-building in Afghanistan than in any country ever, allocating $133 billion for reconstruction, aid programs and the Afghan security forces.

    Adjusted for inflation, that is more than the United States spent in Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.

    ...
    What they said in private
    Sept. 23, 2014

    “We weren’t seriously into it — didn’t have our heart in it. We were pushed into state-building.”

    — Senior State Department official, on the early years of the war, Lessons Learned interview

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    U.S. tolerated corruption in Afghanistan, officials admit in confidential documents - Washington Post - "The U.S. flooded the country with money — then turned a blind eye to the graft it fueled"
    About halfway into the 18-year war, Afghans stopped hiding how corrupt their country had become.

    Dark money sloshed all around. Afghanistan’s largest bank liquefied into a cesspool of fraud. Travelers lugged suitcases loaded with $1 million, or more, on flights leaving Kabul.

    Mansions known as “poppy palaces” rose from the rubble to house opium kingpins.

    President Hamid Karzai won reelection after cronies stuffed thousands of ballot boxes. He later admitted the CIA had delivered bags of cash to his office for years, calling it “nothing unusual.”

    In public, as President Barack Obama escalated the war and Congress approved billions of additional dollars in support, the commander in chief and lawmakers promised to crack down on corruption and hold crooked Afghans accountable.

    In reality, U.S. officials backed off, looked away and let the thievery become more entrenched than ever, according to a trove of confidential government interviews obtained by The Washington Post.

    ...
    WHAT THEY SAID IN PRIVATE
    Aug. 24, 2015

    “We used the bad guys to get the badder guys. We [thought we] could circle back and get the bad guys later, only we never did.”

    — USAID official, Lessons Learned interview

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    U.S. military trainers say Afghan security forces were incompetent and unmotivated, according to confidential documents - Washington Post - "Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption"
    For almost two decades, U.S. military commanders have assured the public they are making progress on the cornerstone of their war strategy: to build a strong Afghan army and police force that can defend the country on their own.

    “We’re on the right track now,” Marine Gen. Jim Mattis told Congress in 2010.

    The Afghan forces are better than we thought they were,” Marine Gen. John Allen told Congress in 2012. “The Afghan national security forces are winning,” Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson told reporters in 2014.

    But in a trove of confidential government interviews obtained by The Washington Post, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials described their efforts to create an Afghan proxy force as a long-running calamity. With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would remain private, they depicted the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated, poorly trained, corrupt and riddled with deserters and infiltrators.

    In one interview, Thomas Johnson, a Navy official who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Kandahar province, said Afghans viewed the police as predatory bandits, calling them “the most hated institution” in Afghanistan. An unnamed Norwegian official told interviewers that he estimated 30 percent of Afghan police recruits deserted with their government-issued weapons so they could “set up their own private checkpoints” and extort payments from travelers.

    ...
    WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC
    Feb. 15, 2007

    “The United States and our allies will help President [Hamid] Karzai increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces. After all, for this young democracy to survive in the long term, they’ll have their own security forces that are capable and trained.”

    — President George W. Bush, in a speech about Afghanistan

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    Opium in Afghanistan: How the U.S. failed to end poppy production during the war - Washington Post - "The U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn"
    In late 2017, U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan launched Operation Iron Tempest, a storm of airstrikes by B-52 bombers, F-22 Raptors and other warplanes. The main target: a network of clandestine opium production labs that U.S. officials said was helping to generate $200 million a year in drug money for the Taliban.

    “This is a new war, and the gloves are off,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch said during a swaggering news conference in Kabul. “That is our new strategy going forward, and it’s definitely been a game-changer and the Taliban is definitely feeling it. . . . The war has changed.”

    But within a year, Operation Iron Tempest had fizzled out. Many of the suspected labs turned out to be empty, mud-walled compounds. After more than 200 airstrikes, the U.S. military concluded it was a waste of resources to keep blowing up primitive targets with advanced aircraft and laser-guided munitions.

    Of all the failures in Afghanistan, the war on drugs has been perhaps the most feckless, according to a cache of confidential government interviews and other documents obtained by The Washington Post.

    ...
    WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC
    March 2000

    “We are 100 percent determined to control drugs, but we cannot do it alone. This problem existed long before the Taliban, and we need much more help from the outside world to solve it.”

    — Abdul Hameed Akhunzada, head of the Taliban’s anti-drug commission, in an interview with The Post.

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    List of the lengths of United States participation in wars - the US's Afghanistan War has beaten out the US's Vietnam War (1955 Nov - 1973 Apr) However, US involvement was low-level until August 1964, when LBJ offered the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to Congress. This was effectively an authorization for escalation into a massive involvement.

    Vietnam War Timeline | Britannica - US involvement in it

    List of armed conflicts involving the United States
    List of wars involving the United States
    List of conflicts in the United States
    Military history of the United States

    I got this article from this tweet:
    The Washington Post on Twitter: "Exclusive: U.S. officials systematically misled the public about the war in Afghanistan, according to internal documents obtained by The Post.
    These are The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war. https://t.co/DbCYuP0OrT" / Twitter


    This raises the question of why they continued. Unwillingness to accept defeat? That's what happened in the Vietnam War, at least if this speech is typical: President Nixon’s Speech on Cambodia, April 30, 1970
    My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years. Even here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.

    If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.

    It is not our power but our will and character that is being tested tonight. The question all Americans must ask and answer tonight is this: Does the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world have the character to meet a direct challenge by a group which rejects every effort to win a just peace, ignores our warning, tramples on solemn agreements, violates the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses our prisoners as hostages?

    If we fail to meet this challenge, all other nations will be on notice that despite its overwhelming power the United States, when a real crisis comes, will be found wanting.
    The Soviet Union may have had a similar reluctance to accept defeat in Afghanistan in the 1980's.

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