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Documents Show Years-Long Pattern of Lying to US Public about Afghan War

Afghan security forces take position during a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz province, Afghanistan September 1, 2019. REUTERS
Afghan security forces take position during a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz province, Afghanistan September 1, 2019. REUTERS
Documents Show Years-Long Pattern of Lying to US Public about Afghan War
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Newly released documents show that United States officials have lied to the public in support of what they knew to be an unwinnable war in Afghanistan.

The Washington Post newspaper released the more than 2,000 pages of documents on Monday.

The U.S. Defense Department denies any effort to lie about the 18-year war effort.

"There has been no intent by DoD to mislead Congress or the public," noted Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a spokesman for the Department of Defense. He wrote to VOA after the publication of the documents.

The Washington Post notes that the documents contain more than 400 interviews with military and government officials who spoke about what went wrong in Afghanistan. It said the documents explain how the United States became trapped in nearly 20 years of armed conflict.

Campbell said that the interviews were provided to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, so they could be included in “SIGAR's public reports."

The Post said that the U.S. officials spoke freely because they thought their words would not be made public. The officials said the plans for fighting the war were weak. They also said the U.S. government wasted hundreds of billions of dollars trying to turn Afghanistan into a democratic nation.

“If the American people knew the (size) of this dysfunction," Army general Douglas Lute said in a 2015 interview. He served as the White House’s Afghan war adviser during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. "We didn’t have (any idea) what we were undertaking,” Lute said.

The Post said the interviews also showed failed U.S. attempts to reduce corruption, build an Afghan army and reduce the country's opium trade.

Three U.S. presidents -- Bush, Obama and Donald Trump -- all promised to avoid becoming trapped in "nation-building" in Afghanistan.

However, the report shows that from the early days of the war, officials in charge of U.S. policy in the country expressed indecision about its strategy and goals.

The Post said the interviews dispute a large number of public statements by officials that described “progress” being made in Afghanistan.

Outgoing Command Sargent Major John Troxell told reporters on Monday that he “thought the strategy we have in place was working." Troxell serves as the senior enlisted adviser to the top U.S. military officer.

"I feel that we've never been lied to, and we are continuing to move forward (in Afghanistan)," he added.

The Afghan war is estimated to have killed more than 150,000 people, including civilians, insurgents, local and foreign troops since 2001. That is when the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power. The Taliban was sheltering al-Qaida leaders accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. targets.

The conflict in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service members and cost the government nearly $1 trillion.

The Post fought a legal battle for three years to force the government to release the information because of its importance to the public.

The U.S. government and the Afghan Taliban restarted peace negotiations on Saturday. Three months ago, Trump suspended the yearlong process that tried to find a political settlement with the Taliban and end the war in Afghanistan.

I'm Susan Shand.

VOA’s Carla Babb reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

pattern - n. something that happens in a regular and repeated way

intent – n. purpose

interview – n. a meeting at which information is exchanged

dysfunction – n. the condition of having poor and unhealthy behaviors within a group of people

strategy – n. a careful plan or method for achieving a goal usually over a long period of time

senioradj. someone who is older than someone else; a person of higher standing

insurgent – n. a person who fights against an established government or power