We may not know the full story behind why the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its armed forces collapsed in such spectacular fashion. But some things about the nation’s longest war we do know…including how, for years, U.S. government and military officials sold the public a bill of goods on the war’s progress, outlook, and aims.

Those revelations came in 2019, and were published (after a three-year long court fight over their release) in the Washington Post. The more than 2,000 pages of candid interviews about the Afghan War paint an unflattering picture of how, at the time, three presidents and their administrations massaged the message to hide failure. Some excerpts…First, was it worth it:

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,”  Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,”  Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

What about the cost:

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?”  Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “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.”

The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

About lying to the American people:

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,”  Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

There’s much more at the link.