Senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan, consistently misleading the American public about an “unwinnable” conflict.
Hundreds of confidential interviews, obtained by The Washington Post, with key figures involved in prosecuting the conflict have revealed that false pronouncements were made to hide the unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable.
The 2,000 pages of documents reveal the bleak and unvarnished views of many insiders in a war which has cost $1 trillion and killed more than 2,300 US servicemen and women, with more than 20,000 injured.
Transcripts of the interviews were collected for a Lessons Learned project by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), a federal agency whose main task is eliminating corruption and inefficiency in the US war effort.
The documents resemble the Pentagon Papers – the US military’s secret history of the Vietnam war – which were leaked in 1971 and told a similarly troubling story of the cover-up of military failure. The documents came to fore amid renewed push to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict between the Trump administration and the Taliban.
“After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan,” retired Navy SEAL Jeffrey Eggers, a White House staffer in the Bush and Obama administrations, said in a private interview.
Interviewees also describe a deliberate disinformation campaign meant to spin discouraging statistics as evidence the US was winning in the war.
“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel and senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, said in an interview. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone,” he added.