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Hundreds of confidential interviews with key figures involved in prosecuting the 18-year US war in Afghanistan have revealed that the US public has been consistently misled about an unwinnable conflict.
Transcripts of the interviews, published by the Washington Post after a three-year legal battle, were collected for a Lessons Learned project by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar),
a federal agency whose main task is eliminating corruption and inefficiency in the US war effort.The 2,000 pages of documents reveal the bleak and unvarnished views of many insiders in a war which has cost $1tn
and killed more than 2,300 US servicemen and women, with more than 20,000 injured. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died in the conflict.
The documents have echoes of the Pentagon Papers – the US military’s secret history of the Vietnam war – which were leaked in 1971 and told a similarly troubling story of the cover-up of military failure.
The interviews were collected, beginning in 2014, in addition to Sigar’s regular audits to identify what could be learned from successive policy failures in Afghanistan.
While many of the failures of the war in Afghanistan have been exposed by Sigar’s work, often in highly technical reports, the cache of interviews offers an easily accessible fly-on-the-wall account.
In his own damning intervention John Sopko, the head of Sigar, told the paper the assessments contained in the project suggested that “the American people have constantly been lied to”.
2 major claims in the documents are that US officials manipulated statistics 2 suggest to the American public that the war was being won and that successive administrations turned a blind eye to widespread corruption amng Afghan officials, allowing the theft of US aid w impunity.
“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the official told interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”
In another interview Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy Seal and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, said: “What did we get for this $1tn effort? Was it worth $1tn?
“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.”
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