The Washington Post recently published a lengthy article headed "The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war". It purports to show how the US military lied to the public about the conduct of the war, and covered up important information.
The former Naval officer who blogs as Cdr. Salamander was there at the time, and he has a rather different view. He's taken the time and trouble to write an extensive essay challenging the errors he sees in the Washington Post article. I found it intriguing. Here are a few excerpts from what is, of necessity, a very long essay.
With Craig Whitlock's article out, many are selectively focused on what little they paid attention small attention to for so long - and I'm about to crawl out of my skin.
This will not stand. I will not let what happened to those who served in Vietnam be saddled to those of us who served in Afghanistan.
I will not let "the military lied and lost the war" smear start before we've even drafted the MOVEORD to the Friendship Bridge.
. . .
Whitlock can only write about what he got from his FOIA, but the gaps here are mind boggling.
. . .
So, are we going to play the blame game are we?
We are going to selectively focus on certain time periods and turn a blind eye to the more complicated experience that was/is Afghanistan?
Well, bollocks to that. We all knew this was losable from junior staffers to the 4-star level in '05 on.
Why do you think McKiernan came in with SCHB a few years later?
We briefed the Obama advance team before the inauguration about the surge and SCHB that was already underway and the importance of momentum ... and they pissed it all ways in DEC09.
The article has some great information, but I am left screaming in to the void with the complete lack of emphasis on the Bonn Accords, McKiernan, lead nation construct early on, and more. There is a lot of self-serving people quoted making excuses for their own self interest - accuracy for history be damned as far as they're concerned.
There's much more at the link. It's a long article, but filled with first-hand observations (after all, he was there for much of the period under discussion). In the latter part of the article, where he takes specific points from the Washington Post essay and picks them apart with his responses, it becomes particularly interesting. Highly recommended reading.
There's an awful lot of blame to go around in Afghanistan, but I suspect more of it is concentrated in Washington D.C. than it is in Kabul. I think an awful lot of US politicians and diplomats (and even some generals) really thought they could create a US-style democracy in a nation that's been at war with itself, and everyone around it, for the past three millennia or so. It was never going to work. (I said as much in past blog articles, for example, this one.)
I think Cdr. Salamander has penned a very useful contribution to any rational analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan. I hope others who were there at the time will do the same, to set the historical record straight. Unfortunately, given the history of almost every country and every army, I don't think we'll learn from those facts . . . and I daresay our descendants will be making the same mistakes, somewhere else.