Documents Reveal Misleading Public Statements on War in Afghanistan

In 2010 this pressure trickled down to troops on the ground, as they answered to commanders eager to show progress to senior leaders, including Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the commander of all American troops in Afghanistan. But the facts were that the fledgling Afghan military performed poorly in the field and the American “clear, hold, build” counterinsurgency strategy had little hope of succeeding.

But this tension, between rosy public statements and the reality on the ground, has been one of the key elements of the war in Afghanistan. Now, 18 years into the war, the American-led mission in Afghanistan has all but cut off outside access to United States troops on the ground in an attempt to execute their mission in near-secrecy.

The Washington Post said the new document trove has a precedent in the Pentagon Papers, but also drew distinctions with that 7,000-page study of the Vietnam War, which was based on internal government documents kept secret until published in 1971 by The New York Times and The Post.

In contrast, The Post describes the new documents as drawn from interviews conducted between 2014 and 2018 that were used by the inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction to write a series of unclassified “Lessons Learned” reports that have been publicly released. “About 30 of the interview records are transcribed, word-for-word accounts,” The Post said. “The rest are typed summaries of conversations: pages of notes and quotes from people with different vantage points in the conflict, from provincial outposts to the highest circles of power.”

Since 2001, more than 2,200 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan, along with hundreds from allied countries that have contributed forces to the war. Since 2014, after the Pentagon officially and euphemistically ended “combat operations,” putting the Afghan military in the lead, more than 50,000 Afghan security forces have died. And the war has cost the United States nearly $1 trillion.

The Washington Post published its report just as talks between the United States and the Taliban have restarted for another round of peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar. In September, President Trump abruptly called off months of the talks following a suicide blast in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 others.

During a recent trip to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan over the Thanksgiving holiday, Mr. Trump said that the United States will stay in Afghanistan “until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly.” Mr. Trump also reaffirmed that he wants to reduce the American military presence to 8,600 troops in the country, down from about 12,000 to 13,000.

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