The Washington Post reveals confidential government documents about the Afghanistan war

Amber Kakkar, Assistant Opinions Editors

Confidential government documents recently obtained by The Washington Post revealed that senior US officials have continuously lied to the public about the Afghanistan war effort by manipulating statistics to make the war appear winnable. There are more than 2,000 pages of accounts by more than 600 people with firsthand experience in the war. Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Washington Post rightfully won the right to the documents after a three-year legal battle with the US Government. The interviews conducted by the Offices of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlight the errors of the war that are still persisting today.

“I think that the Afghanistan Papers truly showed the intentions of the US government as anything but benevolent,” said sophomore Silas Hokanson.

“This army and this police force have been very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day. And I think that’s an important story to be told across the board,” said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley on camera.

“We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan,” said James Dobbins, a former US diplomat, behind the scenes. The promises made under George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump of prevailing in Afghanistan have still not been delivered upon.

During the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, the United States supplied the Mujahideen, the local freedom fighters, with weapons and money. Once Mikhail Gorbachev, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, signed a peace treaty to end the war, the US removed all support from the country.

Directly following the Soviet Union defeat, Afghanistan fell into a civil war between the Mujahideen and the Republic of Afghanistan. Taking advantage of the vulnerable country to set up and enforce the Al-Qaeda network, Osama Bin Laden centered his activities in Afghanistan, despite being Saudi Arabian, not Afghan.

Following the Sept. 11 attack, the United States went on a manhunt for Bin Laden, finally capturing and killing him on May 2, 2011. He was found in a safehouse in Pakistan, less than one mile away from Pakistani military training grounds. After Osama bin Laden’s death, the US army’s original goals became less distinct and a sense of uncertainty infiltrated the Pentagon, White House, and State Department. At first the goal was clear after the attack on Sept. 11, 2001: to uproot Al-Qaeda, prevent any future attack, and stabilize Afghanistan. But overtime, the goal and the enemy blurred. Was Al-Qaeda the enemy or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or foe? Due to this confusion, innocent Afghans lost their homes and are now living amidst war and destruction. What was once described as a “period of prosperity” in the 1960s, hit its dark ages in 1970s and has never been able to re-emerge.

“They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” said an unnamed former American adviser.

The US government set too many unrealistic goals that in the end, there was no strategy set at all. The United States set aside $133 billion to aid Afghanistan to transform into a modern country with new buildings. However, the SIGAR interviews reveal that the plan was scarred from the start. Another plan was to create a democratic government from scratch cented in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, modeled after the one in Washington. Not only would this plan have a timeframe of one hundred years, but it also was a foreign concept to Afghans who were accustomed to tribalism, the Islamic law, and the brief reign of Soviet communism. Last year, 32,000 Afghan civilians were killed during the war effort.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” said James Dobbins, a former US diplomat. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

The Afghanistan Papers reveals one of the biggest disappointments for our country. The war absolutely destroyed what once was a beautiful country. Making rosy announcements while hiding the true progress of the war benefits no one and breaks the trust the American people hold in their government; hopefully, in the future, a leader will have enough sense to prevent history from repeating itself.