Afghanistan Papers : A Secret History Of The War by Craig Whitlock and The Washington Post
View book: Afghanistan Papers : A Secret History Of The War
Experience a gripping exposé of the true story behind America’s longest war in the groundbreaking book The Afghanistan Papers by esteemed Washington Post reporter, Craig Whitlock. Explore the shocking revelations that shed light on how three consecutive presidents and their military commanders deceived the public, ultimately leading to the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. Beneath the surface of near-unanimous public support for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, lay clear and straightforward objectives: defeat al-Qaeda and prevent another 9/11. However, as time progressed, these goals veered off course, and original intentions were lost in an unwinnable guerrilla conflict.
Distracted by the war in Iraq, the US military found itself entangled in an intricate web of complexities within a country they did not fully comprehend. Despite the absence of a realistic prospect for outright victory, no president wished to confess to failure, especially in a war that commenced with just cause. Thus, the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations continued to deploy more troops to Afghanistan, repeatedly making claims of progress while knowingly deceiving the public.
Similar to the groundbreaking Pentagon Papers’ impact on public perception of the Vietnam War, The Afghanistan Papers presents a collection of fast-paced and vivid revelations from those directly involved in the conflict. These individuals span from White House and Pentagon leaders to frontline soldiers and aid workers. Unfiltered and honest, they openly acknowledge the flawed strategies employed by the US government, the colossal failure of the nation-building mission, and the grip of drugs and corruption on Afghan government allies.
The book draws on interviews with over 1,000 individuals who had firsthand knowledge that the US government was presenting a distorted, and at times entirely fabricated, version of the reality on the ground. The Washington Post’s uncovered documents further expose the lack of knowledge and understanding within the highest levels of power. President Bush himself did not even know the name of his Afghanistan war commander and showed reluctance to meet with him. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted to having no visibility into identifying the “bad guys,” while Robert Gates, his successor, bluntly stated that they “didn’t know jack shit about al-Qaeda.”
The Afghanistan Papers emerges as a searing indictment, offering an honest examination of the deceit, blunders, and hubris displayed by senior military and civilian officials. Through its revelations, it ignites a long-overdue reckoning with the mistakes that were made and forever alters the way we remember this protracted conflict.
Lessons Learned: The Afghanistan Papers and the End of the American War
Welcome to The Washington Post Live! Today we have a panel of experts to discuss the end of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan. We have Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Ambassador Douglas Lute, and investigative reporter Craig Whitlock. They will share their insights on what went wrong in Afghanistan and the implications moving forward.
The End of a Painful Era
America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan came to an end as the last American C-17 left Kabul airport at 11:59 pm. It was a challenging and painful journey, and today we have the opportunity to reflect and gather the perspectives of experts who have witnessed the events firsthand.
An Assessment of the Situation
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who was the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, shares his relief at seeing the last plane leave Kabul. He explains the vulnerability and risks the soldiers faced in those final weeks and expresses his concern about the potential return of the Taliban and their alliance with al-Qaeda.
Ambassador Douglas Lute, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, highlights the relief felt by the soldiers and their vulnerability in the face of uncertainty and desperation in Afghanistan. He also underscores the uncertainty and anxiety about what lies ahead and the need for concern moving forward.
Craig Whitlock, an investigative reporter, shares his relief and acknowledges the immense risks involved in the evacuation operation. He raises an important question about the purpose of fighting the Taliban for 20 years, particularly when the original goal was to target al-Qaeda. He concludes that the enemy and the reasons for fighting were not clearly defined throughout the war.
The Afghanistan Papers: A Closer Look
Craig Whitlock’s book, “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History,” examines the deceptive practices and misrepresentations by leaders in the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Both President Bush and President Obama’s administrations made false assurances and covered up setbacks on the battlefield. The book showcases the need for transparency and honest assessments to avoid repeating mistakes in future conflicts.
The Role of Corruption in Afghanistan
Ambassador Ryan Crocker emphasizes the impact of corruption on Afghanistan’s stability. He explains that corruption was not limited to Afghanistan but also extended to Iraq, given the large amounts of money and resources involved. He highlights the inadvertent consequence of pouring funds into a system without proper controls, leading to increased corruption.
The Shortcomings of Nation Building
Ambassador Douglas Lute acknowledges the lack of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan and the myopic approach that characterized the war effort. He stresses the need to define clear goals and evaluate the means to achieve them, rather than focusing solely on nation-building as a concept.
The Role of Congress and the Media
There is shared agreement that both Congress and the media could have done better in holding policymakers accountable. Attention to Afghanistan fluctuated over the 20-year period, often overshadowed by other global events. The media’s coverage also wavered, with the war not receiving the necessary scrutiny at critical junctures. The lessons learned here are valuable for improving the oversight and reporting of future conflicts.
The Future Threat Landscape
Ambassador Ryan Crocker raises concerns about the emboldening of violent Islamic radicals due to the Taliban takeover in Kabul. He highlights the potential threats posed by groups like the Pakistani Taliban and the destabilization of Pakistan, which has implications for the entire region. Ambassador Douglas Lute emphasizes the need to focus not just on counterterrorism but also the stability of countries like Pakistan, considering their geopolitical significance and the risks they pose.
Lessons for the Future
Craig Whitlock emphasizes the importance of reevaluating the counterterrorism strategy and moving beyond repetitive patterns from past wars. He suggests exploring alternatives beyond military power, airstrikes, and drone strikes, which may provide short-term results but are questionable in the long run. It is crucial to consider new approaches and learn from the experiences of the past 20 years.
This panel discussion offers insights, reflections, and lessons learned from the experts who have dedicated their careers to understanding and navigating the complex dynamics of the war in Afghanistan. It is a moment to reflect and discuss how to approach future conflicts and ensure accountability in policymaking.