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Documents Reveal U.S. Officials Misled Public on War in Afghanistan

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Tuesday, 10 December, 2019, 14:15
Documents Reveal U.S. Officials Misled Public on War in Afghanistan

Prominent American officials concealed pessimistic assessments about the long-running military campaign in Afghanistan, according to thousands of pages of documents published by The Washington Post on Monday. Taken together, the documents paint a stark picture of missteps and failures.

The United States military achieved a quick but short-term victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in early 2002, and the Pentagon’s focus then shifted toward Iraq. The Afghan conflict became a secondary effort, a hazy spectacle of nation building, with intermittent troop increases to conduct high-intensity counterinsurgency offensives — but, over all, with a small number of troops carrying out an unclear mission.

Even as the Taliban returned in greater numbers and troops on the ground voiced concerns about the American strategy’s growing shortcomings, senior American officials almost always said that progress was being made.

The documents obtained by The Post show otherwise.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Douglas Lute, a retired three-star Army general who helped the White House oversee the war in Afghanistan in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

“What are we trying to do here?” he told government interviewers in 2015. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”