‘We didn’t know what you’re getting into’: published secret documents about U.S. failure in Afghanistan

Two weeks later, as the newspaper the Washington Post has published documents called “secret history of the war in Afghanistan,” but they did not become the main topic of discussion in the United States and in the world. “The Afghan archive” based on the evidence that officials and the military were given a special Commission for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The US army invaded the country in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, but so far are unable to cope with the Islamist Taliban. “Jellyfish” tells the story of the dossier and its contents.

'Мы не знали, во что ввязываемся': опубликованы секретные документы о провале США в Афганистане

Photo: DepositphotosDepositphotos_83902658_m-2015.jpg

How the documents came to the editor of The Washington Post?

It all started when in 2015, by the correspondent WP’s Craig Whitlock, covering the activities of the Pentagon, drew attention to the fact that the retired General Mike Flynn (who later became the Advisor to Donald trump on national security now accused of making false statements about relations with Russia) had testified before the Special General Inspectorate for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR). The journalist requested information about the testimony of Flynn, in accordance with the Law on freedom of information, but was refused. This only increased his interest, and he found that these conversations were hundreds. After this newspaper three years sued the Department and got permission to access the file.

Meanwhile, SIGAR itself has prepared its own project “lessons Learned”, published seven volumes of interviews with more than 600 people, somehow involved in the resolution of the Afghan conflict. However, according to WP, the information in this series have been grouped in alphabetical order, the conclusions were cautious and dry bureaucratic language so that the reader would be extremely difficult to draw a General picture. The main thing that the reports were hidden the names of more than 90% of respondents.

In addition to these documents the paper published by the WP include previously unpublished working notes of the former Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, who held the post when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The newspaper got access to them due to the same Law on freedom of information.

What says “the Afghan archive”?

As WP says, some U.S. officials wanted to make the country democratic, others to change the very Afghan culture and giving women the right, others to change the regional balance of power between Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia. Finally, James Dobbins, special envoy to Afghanistan under George Bush and Barack Obama, said that the US not invade in order to “make poor countries rich, and the authoritarian — democratic”. The only purpose, in his words, “to transform a country at war in peace, and in the case of Afghanistan, the United States clearly failed.” However, this is just one of the many points of view.

According to journalists from the documents that the US government never tried to answer many fundamental questions. With whom it is at war with “al Qaeda” or “Taliban”? Formally, the war was fought in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, which, allegedly committed by al-Qaida, which has spread its network across the region. But then where do the Taliban, who have always been exclusively national goals? Pakistan is a friend or foe? It is a traditional ally in the region — but he’s a sponsor of the Taliban. How to be the warlords, who since the Soviet Union funded the CIA? They supported the Americans, but with its own population behaved in a way that it is increasingly sympathized with the Taliban.

Neither Bush nor Obama, according to WP, could not articulate the strategic goals of the war.

“We didn’t know what you’re getting into,” summed up Richard Boucher, who for many years was Deputy Secretary of state for South and Central Asia.

According to officials interviewed by SIGAR, the immediate construction of democracy were obviously incompatible with life in a country that has consistently passed the tribal system, the monarchy, communism and Islamic rule.

“Our policy was to create a strong Central government, which was idiotic, because in the history of Afghanistan never had a strong Central government, said an unnamed state Department spokesman. — It takes 100 years, we did not have them”.

Working for the government expert Jordan Selman told that they had to deal with people who were convinced that the king is still in power, and knew neither Russian, nor about Americans.

“They had no money, they go to was a natural exchange of goods, and we tried to practice the XXI century society that lives in a different era,” concludes Salman. The situation is only exacerbated by the fact that many Afghan officials if they know any methods of control, the only socialist, the Soviet invasion, and the market economy was deeply alien to them.

In the midst of the fighting with the Taliban between 2009 and 2012, the United States actively invested in the construction of schools, bridges and channels, which can be explained solely by the dogmatism of thinking. In reality, almost all the money is stolen. According to Colonel Christopher Kolenda, who was Advisor to several American generals, the government of Hamid Karzai, supported by the US, is rapidly “organized themselves into a kleptocracy”. It cost Americans $ 133 billion (more than the reconstruction of Western Europe after the Second world war), and the result is even more alienated from their local communities. It is estimated that of military contracts with the Afghan side, about 40% went to the rebels, bandits or government officials. Some believed that more.

One of the Central components of U.S. policy was to form the Afghan army and police from local residents. In practice it was found that an average of 10 recruits, only two were able to read. American officers were told that they had to teach Afghans to distinguish a urinal from a drinking fountain and explain to them the basics of anatomy to understand how a tourniquet can stop the bleeding, although it is not applied to the wound.

Respondents recognized that their efforts failed completely. According to one of the American officers, a third of recruits were addicted to opium or were themselves the Taliban. Another officer called them “stupid thieves” who were stealing so much fuel to us bases that they constantly smell. Some simply took the form, went home, sold it in local markets, and then without hesitation returned to service. And is not the worst variant: the Norwegian official, whose name was not called, said that he estimated that about 30% of the police deserted with weapons issued to them to practice robbery on the roads. As stated by Thomas Johnson, who advised the Afghan authorities in the fight against militants, to the Afghan police was “the most hated institution.”

Everything else, American leaders for a long time could not agree exactly how to prepare the Afghan forces. The Minister of defence Rumsfeld insisted that they should be compact and should not exceed 50 thousand people; his opponents always insisted on the increase. In the end, in 2019 on paper the strength of the Afghan armed forces is 352 thousand people, in reality, no more than 254 thousand. Over the years, the fighting killed 60 thousand Afghan soldiers — 17 times more than Americans and 20 thousand more than the Taliban.

This is well known, but interviews with officials and military help to better understand what happened. First, initially, about this threat in General, no one thought, focusing on the fight against Islamic extremism. Secondly, when around 2006 it became a reality, no plan was not delineated. At first, the British military paid the farmers for the fact that they destroyed their plantations, next year, farmers planted more of them. Then the Americans began to destroy them yourself without any compensation and only increased the hatred and support for the Taliban among the population.

The US government all knew, but continued to make a bravura statement. Richard Haass, who was responsible for the coordination of U.S. actions in Afghanistan, recalled that, when the invasion has just been discussed, surrounded by Bush, there was no optimism: “I Had a feeling that it is possible to seriously get stuck and nothing to receive.”

Further public statements by representatives of the us administration contrasted sharply with the facts that they were well known. Publicly, the Pentagon welcomed 15 thousands of new Afghan police as “highly trained professionals”, and by the Minister of defense Donald Rumsfeld offered his subordinates to read the report, called “horrors of the Afghan police” with a note that he says “so carefully and quietly as possible”.

American generals for many years, report on their successes in repelling the attacks of the Taliban, not particularly concentrating on the question of why they just attack and attack. In 2009-2011, the Obama administration has consistently pressed to find figures to prove that the strategy of the new President gives the effect. It was difficult, acknowledges an unnamed official from the national security Council, and then in the course was the manipulation of facts. For example, the explosion committed by a suicide bomber, served as proof of the weakness of the Taliban, who are no longer able to open armed clashes. Attacks getting bigger is because the Taliban are increasingly in despair. The reality, however, is that in 2011, the militants, there were about 25 thousand, and in 2016 — 60 thousand. And the United States seek negotiations with them.