Afghanarchy Wins: The WaPo’s report is unshocking and awful

The US invasion of Afghanistan was unwinnable from the start, and everyone in power in Washington knew it, not just the anti-war critics.

Bu**sh** knew.  Rumsfeld knew.  The generals knew.  The chiefs of staff.  The national insecurity council.  Every single stinking one of those making decisions knew it was a waste of time, effort, resources, bodies and money. They knew they couldn’t get the oil pipelines completed, couldn’t “export democracy”, couldn’t tame the most untameable country in the world (just as the UK and USSR failed to do).  “Nation building” is something people do themselves (e.g. like the US did). It’s not something you impose from the outside.

Why did they do it?  Was “american pride” so wounded that the Bu**sh** regime thought flexing their muscles would accomplish something?  Staying home and licking the wounds of 9/11 would have been a better option (like the US did after the 1983 bombing of the marine barracks in Lebanon).   And because people STILL buy into the myth that “the US does not commit war crimes”, it’s unlikely any of those responsible will face the inside of a courtroom…except maybe republicans trying to pin everything on Obama and spineless democrats who backed it.

The only things eighteen years in Afghanistan accomplished were genocide of Afghans; ruined the lives and health of a hundred thousand american citizens; increasing islamic fanaticism across the region; strengthening China’s position politically; increased the power of dictators in the region; and destroyed the US’s own economy and tax base.  If their goal was to cause the US’s self-destruction, launching a nuclear weapon or two against their own soil might have caused less damage.

Excerpts from the Washington Post’s item below the fold.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

“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.”

“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.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a Sept. 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

As commanders in chief, Bush, Obama and Trump all promised the public the same thing. They would avoid falling into the trap of “nation-building” in Afghanistan.

On that score, the presidents failed miserably. The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.


Meanwhile, the United States flooded the fragile country with far more aid than it could possibly absorb.

During the peak of the fighting, from 2009 to 2012, U.S. lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.

The United States has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In the Lessons Learned interviews, former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired.

“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

“The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan in the coming few years — leaving NATO holding the bag — and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006.

Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report loaded with more bad news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a U.S. ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

During Vietnam, U.S. military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted “body counts,” or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. But the Lessons Learned interviews contain numerous admissions that the government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary.

Last year, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war, according to the United Nations.

That is the most in one year since the United Nations began tracking casualties a decade ago.


  1. jrkrideau says

    One must admire US foreign policy. It has produced any number of great successes. Just not for the USA.

    It would not be all that difficult to show that George W. Bush was an Al Qaida agent.

  2. says

    The American People knew, too. There was ample evidence at the time. Everyone was in on it, including the media who helped sell it with their embeds and breathless journalism.

    @jws1: you know what I’m going to say. But my post on this topic is queued for tomorrow.