U.S. officials routinely lied about the progress U.S. forces were making in the Afghanistan War, knowing full well that the lengthy conflict was unwinnable, according to an explosive report published by The Washington Post on Monday.
The revelation follows the Post’s years-long legal battle to obtain classified notes from candid interviews with diplomats and military officials analyzing the failures of America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. The trove of documents was ultimately released to the Post through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan ― we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, an Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015, according to the Post.
“What are we trying to do here?” he continued. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”
Since the U.S. entered Afghanistan in 2001 about a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, more than 775,000 U.S. service members have been deployed to the war-torn country, the Post reported.
Roughly 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed and tens of thousands more wounded. The U.S. has spent more than $2 trillion on the conflict, reported The New York Times.
The Post reported that officials with three administrations ― Bush’s, Obama’s and Donald Trump’s ― publicly offered optimistic expectations about the war effort, despite metrics that showed the opposite.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, called for an investigation into the country’s strategy in Afghanistan after the Post’s report.
“I am writing to request hearings to address these deeply concerning revelations about the Afghan war,” Gillibrand wrote Monday to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
“Given these costs in American lives and funds, it is deeply troubling to read a report of interviews with U.S. Government officials that appear to contradict the many assurances we have heard at committee hearings that the continuing war in Afghanistan has a coherent strategy and an end in sight,” the letter said.
Media figures expressed outrage over the Post’s findings, with many likening the documents to the “Pentagon Papers,” the leaked government report that revealed U.S. officials lied about the scope of the Vietnam War and created an uproar among Americans.
“We’ve sent almost a million American service members to Afghanistan over the past 20 years to fight a war U.S. officials knew was unwinnable almost from jump,” tweeted Adam Serwer, a staff writer for The Atlantic.
Head over to The Washington Post to read their full report.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the estimated cost of the war.
This story has been updated with comment from Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Sanjana Karanth contributed reporting.