Patterico's Pontifications


About The War In Afghanistan: “The American People Have Constantly Been Lied To”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:49 am

[guest post by Dana]

The Washington Post publishes a damning report about the endless war. It’s a long read but well worth your time:

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 They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.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 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.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.


“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”


“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. “We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”


“I may be impatient. In fact I know I’m a bit impatient,” Rumsfeld wrote in one memo to several generals and senior aides. “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.”

“Help!” he wrote.

The memo was dated April 17, 2002 — six months after the war started.

And so it goes…

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


26 Responses to “About The War In Afghanistan: “The American People Have Constantly Been Lied To””

  1. At this point in time, how does the U.S. ever get out of this quagmire?

    Dana (643cd6)

  2. This goes back to the monumentally bad decision of removing Saddam, then disbanding the Iraqi army. The best we can probably do now is keep the Taliban out of majority leadership.

    Paul Montagu (00daa1)

  3. Dana, In Bob Woodward’s book about Trump he recounted a scene were Lindsey Graham explained to President Trump that we needed to keep troops there to prevent Afgahanistan from being the base for another attack on the US and that if Trump pulled troops out and something bad happened everyone would blame him personally.

    That’s the calculus. The political cost of staying compared to the cost of leaving and the potential cost of being blamed when something bad happens.

    Time123 (c9382b)

  4. It’s very simple. As long as Pakistan’s rogue military intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence Agency, is not held accountable, nothing will change and no peace agreement is possible no mater how tired some of the Taliban commanders may be..

    They might be being bribed by China.

    Sammy Finkelman (fb61e5)

  5. @1. Welcome to the Pentagon Papers redux.

    You cannot trust the military to make policy. Like any bureaucracy it eeks self-perpetuation. to

    Afghnaistanhs a long lit of losers who woke up, smelled the java and finally left.

    How did the CCCP leave? History has a lot of lessons worth learning.

    The way to ‘leave’ is the way to have exited Vietnam in 1967– before losing another U.S. 35,000 lives:

    Declare victory– and leave.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  6. ‘distort statistics’… ‘lied to’… Back in the day, it was known as ‘The Five O’Clock Follies.’

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  7. As I remember it, the CIA in Afghanistan worked with local leaders to form what became “the northern alliance,” and that group effectively brought pressure to limit the Taliban’s strength in the region.

    What I never have understood is the reason why the participation of the US military became necessary.

    John B Boddie (0fa0b7)

  8. @7. Ask a neocon; PNAC and all that crap.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  9. In his Farewell Address, when George Washington stepped down from the presidency after two terms–this when the people wanted to anoint him King–he warned the nascent, newly freed Americans about three things: hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, and interference in foreign conflicts. For over a century that was the most published and widely read document in America, more so than the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the century since Washington’s Farewell Address stopped being the most widely read document, look at us today. Hyper-partisan, deeply in debt, interfering in foreign conflicts. Go figure.

    Gawain's Ghost (6da1c0)

  10. A couple of the Northern Alliance leaders were assassinated.
    One by a suicide bomber who posed as a photographer. The camera was really a bomb.

    One simple reason the war was expanded was because there was no strong leadership to fill the power vacuum left when the Taliban crumbled, and because the US was afraid it could not keep the Taliban from regenerating.

    steveg (354706)

  11. We heard the same thing during the vietnam war. Some things never change. When the general told congress the truth about what would happen when we invaded iraq he was fired!

    asset (037eeb)

  12. 9, what displaced Washington’s Farewell Address as the most published and most widely read document?

    urbanleftbehind (8a7dda)

  13. But that damn Trump wants to get out.

    That appeaser.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  14. You need to match your flowers to the soil. Poppies do well in Afghanistan, pansies not so much.

    I am neither surprised nor disappointed. I think our tatted-up tranny McDonald’s rejects have done about as well as could have been expected of them.

    The people who are surprised and disappointed are the people who don’t understand that our military largely consists of the lowest quality of persons you are likely to find in our society outside of prison. The Taliban are the opposite. Truly the best and brightest of Afghanistan’s youth — tough, brave, and dedicated.

    nk (dbc370)

  15. This is a report specifically commissioned to identify things that went wrong. And lo and behold, they found that some things went wrong, just as they have in every war going back to the Revolution.

    Labelling the war a failure is left-wing/jihadist propaganda that will now be embraced by the Russia-dominated elements of the Republican party.

    They cite “several” sources, out of the hundreds of thousands who served in some capacity, claiming statistics were cited misleadingly. Until there is a specific instance cited where false FACTS (not PREDICTIONS, which are inherently uncertain and subjective) were knowingly given out, saying people lied is itself a lie.

    If the war was “unwinnable,” how did we, nevertheless, manage to win? The fact is, Afghanistan today is not a base for attacks on the United States, and over the last five years, our casualties have averaged one KIA per month. At rate, we could stay there for two hundred years and still come out ahead on American lives if we prevent *one* 9/11 scale attack in that time.

    For the past five years, the death rate among troops in Afghanistan is lower than the murder rate in some (admittedly, the worst) American cities. If we can’t accept one KIA per month to keep an extremely dangerous country from being used as a base to attack us, then we are in serious trouble.

    Dave (1bb933)

  16. No sentient being wants the corrupt criminal traitor cretin Trump for President. If Deep State was out to deep-six him, I praise them and thank them for all their efforts on behalf of our country and for the human race. I am only sorry that they did not succeed.

    nk (dbc370)

  17. @14. Rummy, Cheney, Kagan, Kristol, Wolfowitz, Petraeus, etc., and crew weren’t flipping burgers- just flipping off the American people.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  18. Well, there’s high-paying executive jobs at McDonald’s, too. The last CEO’s base pay was $1.35 million a year, for example. See any of those guys you mentioned getting those jobs? Flynn? Mattis? And Flynn will soon fit into my “outside of prison” exception.

    nk (dbc370)

  19. 15. Gee, Dave, guess you slept through the Vietnam War– and missed your copy of the Pentagon Papers; no wall for the kids, eh- just a trillion dollar door to a rest room in Lafayette Park.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  20. @18. Just cushy pensions; Walmart is powering down their greeter program– though these days fellas w/even lousy military judgement might do well in there stores.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  21. I am neither surprised nor disappointed. I think our tatted-up tranny McDonald’s rejects have done about as well as could have been expected of them.

    The people who are surprised and disappointed are the people who don’t understand that our military largely consists of the lowest quality of persons you are likely to find in our society outside of prison. The Taliban are the opposite. Truly the best and brightest of Afghanistan’s youth — tough, brave, and dedicated.

    nk (dbc370) — 12/9/2019 @ 4:22 pm

    This might be the most disgusting thing you’ve ever posted. I will never forget it.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  22. @14 Not in my experience of people in or people who have been in or people interested in being in. There’s a lot of fam-trad. There are a lot of people who want to go to college but don’t have the money. There are kids who don’t have a lot of direction and figure it’s a decent option for now. There are kids who’ve seen too many movies. There are kids who know they need to get far far away from their poorly chosen peer group or messed up family because they have more ambition than drugs or jail. There are kids coming out of foster care who need a stable place to land. There are kids with illusions of heroism (sigh). There are young men who’ve gotten a girl pregnant and taken responsibility, gotten married and need a profession with housing and a paycheck. They are often people with not a lot of opportunity, but that doesn’t make them low quality persons.

    Nic (896fdf)

  23. @22. Hard to blame the tools when it’s the architects who draw up the plans.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  24. @15 so we are winning the war in afganistan just like we won the war in vietnam which is why saigon is now called ho chi minh city. Just as kabul will be renamed osama bin ladin city.

    asset (e805f1)

  25. Sorry. (Well, actually, no, I’m not, that’s just an expression.) I don’t go gaga over guys in uniform, and the post-60s Liberal ethos that the Lowest Common Denominator is The Ideal turns my stomach.

    nk (dbc370)

  26. Thank you, happyfeet. I appreciate that very much coming from you. I don’t know if I have said this before, but you are my inspiration.

    nk (dbc370)

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