More than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished “confidential” documents were released by the Washington Post on Monday containing, in many cases, very candid appraisals by government officials, diplomats, military officers and aid workers of the post-2001 war effort in Afghanistan. Many of the reports were critical of how the war was conducted—on every level—and how falsely it was reported up the chain of command and to the public.
Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House official under Bush and Obama, asked in a Lessons Learned interview included in the collection:
“Why did we make the Taliban the enemy when we were attacked by al-Qaeda? Why did we want to defeat the Taliban?”
Eggers also said: “Collectively the system is incapable of taking a step back to question basic assumptions.”
Douglas Lute, an Army general who later became the US Ambassador to NATO, told government interviewers in 2015: “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”
The Washington Post characterized the interviews as revealing that “senior US 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.”
According to the documents, 157,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan since the US-led military invasion in the country in late 2001.
The document states that an estimated 43,074 Afghan civilians, 64,124 Afghan security force members and 42,100 Taliban fighters have died so far. Also, 7,295 foreigners--among them 3,814 US contractors, 1,145 coalition forces’ members and 2,300 American soldiers--have died as well.
One senior National Security Council official said the Obama administration and Pentagon pushed metrics that portrayed the 2009 decision to surge 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in an inaccurately positive light:
“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” and “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”
Afghans responded to TOLOnews on Tuesday with reactions to the released documents:
“Not only me and the Afghan people, but the American people as well are not satisfied with what has been achieved in view of war expenditures,” said Fida Mohammad Ulfat, a lawmaker in Afghan parliament.
“The expenditures should have been spent on a series of plans, authentic programs and working strategies based on the ground realities and this would have helped to get a better outcome,” said Mohammad Asif, the former governor of Parwan.