Top US officials knew the Afghanistan war was unwinnable and 'lied' — even as costs rose to $1 trillion and 2,351 American troop's lives

rpickrell@businessinsider.com (Ryan Pickrell)
US Army Afghanistan

US Army

  • US officials have been "constantly" misleading the American people about the war in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing confidential documents revealing true assessments of the conflict.
  • The Post obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 people directly involved in the war.
  • The documents reveal that the US and its allies and partners have struggled to define their mission, that the US does not have a sufficient understanding of Afghanistan, and that the US has wasted massive amounts of money trying to stabilize the still-unstable country.

US officials have been lying to the American people about US failures in Afghanistan, where the US military has been fighting its longest armed conflict in history, a collection of confidential documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals.

Over the past 18 years of war, US officials have repeatedly insisted that the US is making progress in Afghanistan, but more than 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 people who had a direct role in the war in Afghanistan indicate that data was altered and facts were twisted to present a positive picture when the reality in country was far from it, The Post reported Monday.

John Sopko, the head of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the agency that conducted the interviews, told The Post that the documents clearly showed "the American people have constantly been lied to."

The documents obtained by The Post show that the US and its allies and partners have struggled to define their mission, that the US does not have a sufficient understanding of Afghanistan, and that the US has wasted massive amounts of money trying to stabilize the still-unstable country. All told, 2,351 American troops have died during the war as well as 3,814 US contractors, according to the Post.

"We didn't know what we were doing," Douglas Lute, a retired three-star Army general who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told interviewers in 2015. "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," he added.

Since the start of the war in 2001, the US has sent more than 775,000 troops to Afghanistan. All told, 2,351 American troops have died during the war as well as 3,814 US contractors, according to the Post.

Furthermore, the US is estimated to have spent roughly $1 trillion on the conflict.

"What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?" Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL who served both Bush and Obama as a White House staffer, asked, according to The Post.

"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," he added.

"We don't invade poor countries to make them rich. We don't invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic," James Dobbins, who previously served as a special envoy to Afghanistan, said. "We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan."

The Trump administration, despite the president's announcement in September that peace talks were "dead," has resumed negotiations with the Taliban in hopes of securing a negotiated peace to this conflict. The Institute for Economics and Peace, however, recently ranked the Taliban as the deadliest terrorist group in the world.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

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