Politics At war with the truth (Afghanistan papers)

M

Mordoror

Guest

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 They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.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



Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.


//

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

“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.”


“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.”



Vietnam story, bis repetita placens
 
Uh uh. Some interesting points there.

While the US suffered the heavier loss and wounded, let’s not forget the rest of the coalition.

The sand box has always been at war (more or less for hundred years).

Regarding casualties that’s less than nothing Verdun or Stalingrad put things in perspective. Back then there was no “Six months tour” but you were forced to war and got back basically only if wounded or in a coffin.

Those chickenhawks who are pushing for an invasion of Iran should be reminded that, let them sort each others out. Ain’t nobody in the Western countries willing to lose a leg so that Muhammad can live in peace.
 
Uh uh. Some interesting points there.

While the US suffered the heavier loss and wounded, let’s not forget the rest of the coalition.

The sand box has always been at war (more or less for hundred years).

Regarding casualties that’s less than nothing Verdun or Stalingrad put things in perspective. Back then there was no “Six months tour” but you were forced to war and got back basically only if wounded or in a coffin.

Those chickenhawks who are pushing for an invasion of Iran should be reminded that, let them sort each others out. Ain’t nobody in the Western countries willing to lose a leg so that Muhammad can live in peace.
Good points @Jake84
However, i'd mitigate a bit the comparison with Verdun and Stalingrad
People have always been more willing to sacrifice themselves (up to death) if there was a purpose to that sacrifice
That's why Verdun was a ferocious struggle while Chemin des Dames ended into mutiny

Here we have reports of lies, misconduct of war, huge spending and lies again. From all the successive administrations. Without any clear purpose (except the short period of revenge after the 9/11)

A excellent recipe for a quagmire. Without a strategy, you will never win a war and may even not finish one. Seems the US didn't had any strategy and it costed them a lot
Furthermore they dragged a bunch of other countries into this mess.
To the point that some armies are still pedaling to retrieve a good health (i am thinking about the british army and the disastrous effects of both Afghanistan and Irak campaigns)
And let's not even talk about the effect on the international chessboard.

Afghanistan is indeed the gravedigger of Empires

PS : this massive journalist work (yes, it is noticeable because there are not a lot of such these days) is also showing that no matter how honorable and white gloved you want to appear, any government including in "free, democratic" countries can and will lie to his citizens
People should think about it the next time they are supporting/chearing for a war ....
 
More good points and in all fairness, even though today’s youth are less willing to go to war (and no one is drafted either unless we are talking Israel or a few other countries).

YES. People are more likely defending their backyards than that of his neighbors so going to war in Astan, Mali has far less appeal...

I’m not disparaging our western soldiers regardless of the country though; they do a fair job and so does their Generals. I mostly blame politicians.

Unfortunately Afghanistan HAD to happen; there was no way for the US to appear weak when 3000 of their civilians got killed in the biggest terror attack in history.

Even most of Europe went to war hand in hand with Uncle Sam and rightly so to kick AQ out and bring OBL to justice or better yet feed the fishes with his remains.

The aftermath is complicated. We leave and it’s war again and we stay and more of the same.
 
More good points and in all fairness, even though today’s youth are less willing to go to war (and no one is drafted either unless we are talking Israel or other countries).

YES. People are more likely defending their backyards than that of his neighbors so going to war in Astan, Mali has far less appeal.

I’m not disparaging our western soldiers regardless of the country though; they do a fair job and so does their Generals. I mostly blame politicians.

Unfortunately Afghanistan HAD to happen; there was no way for the US to appear weak when 3000 of their civilians got killed in the biggest terror attack in history.

Even most of Europe went to war hand in hand with Uncle Sam and rightly so to kick AQ out and Bring OBL to justice or better yet feed the fishes with his remains.

The aftermath is complicated. We leave and it’s war again and we stay and more of the same.
That's true but for the less bad ending, you need a strategy and an understanding of the country
Some excerpts of the article are mindboggling

Giving money for development of looming factories for Kabul high society women to have an occupation while it would have been more intelligent to teach the lower classes

Building roads without maintenance programs so the next year, after the central asia winter and then summer, it remains nothing of that

Building roads from nowhere to nowhere, just to spend the credits and say something was done in activity report files

Building clinics/hospitals 10 km away from the electricity grid and away from any potable water source

In comparison, India has invested into a dam that provides electricity to thousands. Less money spent but more efficiently

Plus as said in the article, without strategy and understanding of the country habits, the americans did the same mistake that they did in Irak
They paradropped a "democratic" centralised government into a country that never, ever had a culture for such thing
You cannot turn a tribalist, clustered, feodal, driven by tradition country into a US lite/like thing overnight. It has to come from within and it takes at least 1 century.
 
A excellent recipe for a quagmire. Without a strategy, you will never win a war and may even not finish one. Seems the US didn't had any strategy and it costed them a lot

Maybe they have never had a wining intention, and neither finish the war, maybe what they were looking for was exactly that. if you don´t have any conflict, you must create one, a soft one, 2.300 deads is a very low price in exchange of all the money that this type of "war" have produced in 20 years. And experience gained in the use of new methods and collaboration with allies.
 
Maybe they have never had a wining intention, and neither finish the war, maybe what they were looking for was exactly that. if you don´t have any conflict, you must create one, a soft one, 2.300 deads is a very low price in exchange of all the money that this type of "war" have produced in 20 years. And experience gained in the use of new methods and collaboration with allies.


The swamp. So much money to be made, why end it?
 
As orwell said:

"The war, therefore if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that the hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact."

Maybe he was right.
 
The swamp. So much money to be made, why end it?
I was not talking about money, surely it´s important, but is not necessarily the main motive.

I don´t know, maybe they have found any better future substitute of that conflict to get the same they were searching with it.

Anyway, I am sure that when they started all this, they had good reasons to start it. We will never know the true motives, probably because if we knew them, we would not like them.
 
I was not talking about money, surely it´s important, but is not necessarily the main motive.

I don´t know, maybe they have found any better future substitute of that conflict to get the same they were searching with it.

Anyway, I am sure that when they started all this, they had good reasons to start it. We will never know the true motives, probably because if we knew them, we would not like them.

Many patriots went to Afghanistan for the right reasons, some of them gave everything. Obviously, those men and women are the best of us. Just saying that there is a culture, call them globalists, call them the swamp, call them the Deep State, who profit greatly and are opposed to ending wars, especially US wars, where money is spent lavishly. These dogs are the worst of us.
 
Make no mistake, there'd been a serious chance to end this conflict prior to the neo-Taliban insurgence beginning in the mid-2000. Politicians squandered it.

They squandered it by allowing the formation of a power vacuum filled by lawlessness after 2001, giving the Taliban a chance to act the lawgiver and legitimise themselves (particularly in the eyes of the Pashtuns) as liberators.
Countries like Germany and Italy with their long inadequate contingents and rules of engagement are at fault for this vacuum; but so are the United States and Great Britain since they so recklessly dialled back their commitment in preparation for the Iraq invasion.

Likewise, they squandered their chance by reaching for unrealistic goals in a bid to quickly produce positive headlines, wasting valuable time and obscene sums of money in the process.

I don't mean to question civilian primacy over the military here – but ultimately, the underlying problem is all governments involved behaved like patients who refuse to follow their doctor's advice but expect to be healed nonetheless.

For example, our training and mentoring goals were regularly jeopardised by so fundamental an issue like rampant drug abuse amongst Afghan recruits or their complete and utter lack of proper socialisation. The fact is, our instructors had to spend most of their time (and on their own initiative) preparing the Afghans for the training rather than training them, e.g. by teaching diligence, self initiative and basic literacy.

Whenever I hear this war was supposedly "unwinnable" I feel my toenails curl 'cause the fact is no one in charge ever really did what was necessary to achieve victory. Even basic maths reveals as much.

See, by comparison a nation with the population density, size and geographical extent of Afghanistan would maintain at least some 200 000 troops and as many police officers. And that is an optimistic estimate since e.g. South Africa (which is, in many ways, geographically and demographically comparable) employs three times as many police officers per statistical unit (and remains one of the most dangerous countries still).
Even if one was to assume every soldier or policeman officially sworn to the Afghan government 1. actually existed, 2. was loyal, 3. well-trained and 4. adequately equipped; and even if one was to add all NATO forces in the country to their number; the obtained sum would not represent a sufficiently-sized force to achieve success.

Especially so as no such calculation takes into account the great many other factors thwarting the coalition's efforts in the country, ranging from religious strife and blood feuds to something as simple as poor infrastructure rendering it harder to police the countryside.
The reality is, NATO has never fielded more than approximately 50 000 to 60 000 combat troops; and I should be surprised to hear the Afghans can field as many. In contrast, the 'Long War Journal' once quoted then-COMISAF McChrystal as saying he'd require over half a million boots on the ground to accomplish his mission.

So it's not this war that's unwinnable but our way of waging it. This seems so painfully obvious there's no need to even proceed to discussing the failures of the civilian side of the coalition's efforts.

Incidentally, the politics behind this war strike me as a good example for what Popper used to call the "poverty of historicism". One should wonder if things couldn't have panned out differently if most NATO countries hadn't bought into the "graveyard of empires" myth so early into the war.
A race driver convinced he'll be outdriven before the race is even started must not be surprised when he comes in second.

History does not repeat itself. Humans' mistakes do.
 
Many patriots went to Afghanistan for the right reasons, some of them gave everything. Obviously, those men and women are the best of us. Just saying that there is a culture, call them globalists, call them the swamp, call them the Deep State, who profit greatly and are opposed to ending wars, especially US wars, where money is spent lavishly. These dogs are the worst of us.
Those who serve, are the best of us, unfortunately, their moral courage and noble spirit, force them to obey, and sadly, those who gave the orders, are politicians, and politicians are not usually precisely the best of us.
 
Make no mistake, there'd been a serious chance to end this conflict prior to the neo-Taliban insurgence beginning in the mid-2000. Politicians squandered it.

They squandered it by allowing the formation of a power vacuum filled by lawlessness after 2001, giving the Taliban a chance to act the lawgiver and legitimise themselves (particularly in the eyes of the Pashtuns) as liberators.
Countries like Germany and Italy with their long inadequate contingents and rules of engagement are at fault for this vacuum; but so are the United States and Great Britain since they so recklessly dialled back their commitment in preparation for the Iraq invasion.

Likewise, they squandered their chance by reaching for unrealistic goals in a bid to quickly produce positive headlines, wasting valuable time and obscene sums of money in the process.

I don't mean to question civilian primacy over the military here – but ultimately, the underlying problem is all governments involved behaved like patients who refuse to follow their doctor's advice but expect to be healed nonetheless.

For example, our training and mentoring goals were regularly jeopardised by so fundamental an issue like rampant drug abuse amongst Afghan recruits or their complete and utter lack of proper socialisation. The fact is, our instructors had to spend most of their time (and on their own initiative) preparing the Afghans for the training rather than training them, e.g. by teaching diligence, self initiative and basic literacy.

Whenever I hear this war was supposedly "unwinnable" I feel my toenails curl 'cause the fact is no one in charge ever really did what was necessary to achieve victory. Even basic maths reveals as much.

See, by comparison a nation with the population density, size and geographical extent of Afghanistan would maintain at least some 200 000 troops and as many police officers. And that is an optimistic estimate since e.g. South Africa (which is, in many ways, geographically and demographically comparable) employs three times as many police officers per statistical unit (and remains one of the most dangerous countries still).
Even if one was to assume every soldier or policeman officially sworn to the Afghan government 1. actually existed, 2. was loyal, 3. well-trained and 4. adequately equipped; and even if one was to add all NATO forces in the country to their number; the obtained sum would not represent a sufficiently-sized force to achieve success.

Especially so as no such calculation takes into account the great many other factors thwarting the coalition's efforts in the country, ranging from religious strife and blood feuds to something as simple as poor infrastructure rendering it harder to police the countryside.
The reality is, NATO has never fielded more than approximately 50 000 to 60 000 combat troops; and I should be surprised to hear the Afghans can field as many. In contrast, the 'Long War Journal' once quoted then-COMISAF McChrystal as saying he'd require over half a million boots on the ground to accomplish his mission.

So it's not this war that's unwinnable but our way of waging it. This seems so painfully obvious there's no need to even proceed to discussing the failures of the civilian side of the coalition's efforts.

Incidentally, the politics behind this war strike me as a good example for what Popper used to call the "poverty of historicism". One should wonder if things couldn't have panned out differently if most NATO countries hadn't bought into the "graveyard of empires" myth so early into the war.
A race driver convinced he'll be outdriven before the race is even started must not be surprised when he comes in second.

History does not repeat itself. Humans' mistakes do.
I don´t know if this conflict become "unwinnable" due to a true incompetence, or it was "unwinnable" due to a deliberate incompetence because they didn´t have any interest in winning.
 
I don´t know if this conflict become "unwinnable" due to a true incompetence, or it was "unwinnable" due to a deliberate incompetence because they didn´t have any interest in winning.


It's winnable. But I only see two ways.

1) Kill everyone.

Or

2) send 500,000 troops to occupy them for 100 years.

Choice one is more efficient and much cheaper.

Personally, I don't think Afghanistan is worth the life of one more American. They've been killing each other for thousands of years, they will continue to kill each other for thousands of years after we have left.
 
Make no mistake, there'd been a serious chance to end this conflict prior to the neo-Taliban insurgence beginning in the mid-2000. Politicians squandered it.

They squandered it by allowing the formation of a power vacuum filled by lawlessness after 2001, giving the Taliban a chance to act the lawgiver and legitimise themselves (particularly in the eyes of the Pashtuns) as liberators.
Countries like Germany and Italy with their long inadequate contingents and rules of engagement are at fault for this vacuum; but so are the United States and Great Britain since they so recklessly dialled back their commitment in preparation for the Iraq invasion.

Likewise, they squandered their chance by reaching for unrealistic goals in a bid to quickly produce positive headlines, wasting valuable time and obscene sums of money in the process.

I don't mean to question civilian primacy over the military here – but ultimately, the underlying problem is all governments involved behaved like patients who refuse to follow their doctor's advice but expect to be healed nonetheless.

For example, our training and mentoring goals were regularly jeopardised by so fundamental an issue like rampant drug abuse amongst Afghan recruits or their complete and utter lack of proper socialisation. The fact is, our instructors had to spend most of their time (and on their own initiative) preparing the Afghans for the training rather than training them, e.g. by teaching diligence, self initiative and basic literacy.

Whenever I hear this war was supposedly "unwinnable" I feel my toenails curl 'cause the fact is no one in charge ever really did what was necessary to achieve victory. Even basic maths reveals as much.

See, by comparison a nation with the population density, size and geographical extent of Afghanistan would maintain at least some 200 000 troops and as many police officers. And that is an optimistic estimate since e.g. South Africa (which is, in many ways, geographically and demographically comparable) employs three times as many police officers per statistical unit (and remains one of the most dangerous countries still).
Even if one was to assume every soldier or policeman officially sworn to the Afghan government 1. actually existed, 2. was loyal, 3. well-trained and 4. adequately equipped; and even if one was to add all NATO forces in the country to their number; the obtained sum would not represent a sufficiently-sized force to achieve success.

Especially so as no such calculation takes into account the great many other factors thwarting the coalition's efforts in the country, ranging from religious strife and blood feuds to something as simple as poor infrastructure rendering it harder to police the countryside.
The reality is, NATO has never fielded more than approximately 50 000 to 60 000 combat troops; and I should be surprised to hear the Afghans can field as many. In contrast, the 'Long War Journal' once quoted then-COMISAF McChrystal as saying he'd require over half a million boots on the ground to accomplish his mission.

So it's not this war that's unwinnable but our way of waging it. This seems so painfully obvious there's no need to even proceed to discussing the failures of the civilian side of the coalition's efforts.

Incidentally, the politics behind this war strike me as a good example for what Popper used to call the "poverty of historicism". One should wonder if things couldn't have panned out differently if most NATO countries hadn't bought into the "graveyard of empires" myth so early into the war.
A race driver convinced he'll be outdriven before the race is even started must not be surprised when he comes in second.

History does not repeat itself. Humans' mistakes do.
Excellent points @muck.
I woulf had that one thing that hindered the success is also the mentality of the top level decisioners.
Two major players important were left aside for ideological reasons: Iran and Russia.
A war is only a political tool (Clausewitz or was it Machiavel)
What i see is that US way of waging wars and even more post war rarely encompasses the needed political assesment.
USA has a formidable tool, its army.
But its army is an hammer and not every issue is a nail.
 
History does not repeat itself. Humans' mistakes do.
Well, a well known german said once that history does repeat itself, first time as tragedy and second one as a farce.
It's winnable. But I only see two ways.

1) Kill everyone.

Or

2) send 500,000 troops to occupy them for 100 years.

Choice one is more efficient and much cheaper.

Personally, I don't think Afghanistan is worth the life of one more American. They've been killing each other for thousands of years, they will continue to kill each other for thousands of years after we have left.
It´s difficult to bring an entire nation from medieval ages to modernity with only a military intervention and with a short/medium term plan.

I think that they know this perfectly when they decided do what they did. I don´t know why they decided abandon the multi-level intervention, or at least, don´t invest so many funds in other areas.Possibly it was too expensive and it would take a long time.

Afganistan has been the board for the Great Game in the area during the whole History. Maybe mantain it as a free of cultivation field, is more convenient than prepare it, weed it, plough it, since someone else could come and take their own more easily.

Anyway, I digress.
 
Well, a well known german said once that history does repeat itself, first time as tragedy and second one as a farce.

It´s difficult to bring an entire nation from medieval ages to modernity with only a military intervention and with a short/medium term plan.

I think that they know this perfectly when they decided do what they did. I don´t know why they decided abandon the multi-level intervention, or at least, don´t invest so many funds in other areas.Possibly it was too expensive and it would take a long time.

Afganistan has been the board for the Great Game in the area during the whole History. Maybe mantain it as a free of cultivation field, is more convenient than prepare it, weed it, plough it, since someone else could come and take their own more easily.

Anyway, I digress.


At least difficult, but probably impossible. There was one mission in 2001. Destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Binladen. If the Taliban got in the way, destroy them too. There was to be no nation building, no converting a medieval society into a Jeffersonian Democracy. The mission was narrow and focused. Kill those who killed us. Talk about mission creep. The Afghanistan campaign has turned into a self licking ice ream cone.
 
Once Osama Binladen was shot in the face, there was little reason to stay in Afghanistan.
That is debatable.
There was a good window of opportunity between 2006 and 2008 when the talibans were at their lowesr. OBL was in Pak and had not influence anymore.
But for a winner withdrawal it would have needed to include Russia, Iran and India in the game.
And it would have implied to be ready to discuss with all parties including the Talebs.
Issue is the disease of perceived victory.
Nobody will speak with an opponent perceived as losing.(while it is the best moment if you want to strike a deal cause you are in position of strengh).
Unfortunately if the opponent recovers which was the case,the windows of opportunity closes and you end up negociating in not a strengh position anymore but in a position of weakness.
This is exactly what is happening right now.
 

Similar threads

Back
Top