US lawmakers demand full, open debate on Afghanistan

Updated December 11, 2019

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A report published by The Washington Post shows that UD administrations lways knew that the war effort in Afghanistan was failing but they never shared this with the public. — AFP/File
A report published by The Washington Post shows that UD administrations lways knew that the war effort in Afghanistan was failing but they never shared this with the public. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers are demanding a full and open congressional debate on Afghanistan after a media report revealed that three US administrations repeatedly misled Ameri­cans on the Afghan war.

“After 19 years, we need to have a full, open debate on whether or not we should still be at war,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. “This is not the war we voted for in 2001.”

Another Republican, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to “hold hearings on the state of the Afghanistan conflict and the infuriating details and alleged falsehoods reported” by The Washington Post on Monday. Senator Hawley is a member of the committee.

Congressman Max Rose, a New York Democrat, went a step ahead and called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. “The time to end this war and bring our troops home honourably is now,” he said.

Congressman Max Rose, a New York Democrat, calls for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan

“We must end the vicious, lethal cycle of misinformation and unspecified, unsupported strategies,” said Senator Richard Blumen­thal, another member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, also called for public hearings with US Defence Secretary Mark T. Esper and other officials.

On Monday, The Post published a massive trove of confidential government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act following a three-year legal battle. The documents show that US administrations always knew that the war effort in Afghanistan was failing but they never shared this with the public.

In one of the documents, Douglas Lute, a retired general and former Afghan war czar for the Bush and Obama administrations tells a congressional watchdog: “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing. What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

He argued that “if the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction,” they would have never approved the war.

The report points out that: When President George W. Bush said the US would be in Afghanistan until Al Qaeda was “brought to justice”, the timeline he cited was “a month” to a “year or two”.

So far, 775,000 US troops have been deployed to Afghanistan, many of them more than once. In 18 years of war, 2,300 died while 20,589 were wounded.

The Pentagon and USAID have spent $934bn to $978bn in Afghanistan, with more spent by the CIA and other agencies.

The US spent $133bn into developing Afgha­nistan, exceeding the cost of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe (adjusted for inflation).

Opium production is spiking despite $8bn spent to fight it.

Afghanistan now contributes 82 per cent of the world’s supply. Just 35pc of Americans think the war effort “mostly succeeded,” while 49pc think it “mostly failed”.

The US still has 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Billions distributed to build up Afghanistan’s economy created a political “kleptocracy” that has destroyed trust in the government and will plague Afghanistan for years to come.

The US-trained Afghan security forces are “incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters”.

The report is based on interviews conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Recons­truc­tion between 2014-2018.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019