- Defense Department
- Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, is in the spotlight for his critical statements on America’s war in Afghanistan.
- His statements prompted an extensive Washington Post investigation, published Monday, that uncovered a candid history of the war that revealed the US government had largely misled the public.
- The Post, stumbling upon a secret government review, found that officials and advisers from the White House and the Pentagon held private reservations about the war even as they publicly peddled an optimistic view of Afghanistan’s progress.
- “From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn told government investigators, according to documents and audio recordings obtained by The Post. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”
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Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, is in the spotlight for his past statements about America’s war in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post on Monday said it was those statements, which it received a tip about years ago when Flynn emerged as a prominent campaign surrogate for Trump, that prompted its extensive investigation into the US government’s history of misleading characterizations of the war.
The full Post report on Monday into what are now dubbed “The Afghanistan Papers” detailed a secret government review in which hundreds of people involved in the war effort were interviewed. Many, including senior officials, were found to have held private reservations about the war effort even as the White House and the Pentagon publicly peddled an optimistic view of Afghanistan’s progress.
Flynn’s comments about the war, which were made in a November 2015 interview with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction but which The Post said it learned about in the summer of 2016, sparked what became a three-year push by The Post to obtain transcripts of interviews like Flynn’s.
“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn told SIGAR investigators, according to documents and audio recordings obtained by The Post. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”
“So they all went in for whatever their rotation was, nine months or six months, and were given that mission, accepted that mission and executed that mission,” Flynn added, referring to the mission of newly deployed military leaders. “Then they all said, when they left, they accomplished that mission. Every single commander. Not one commander is going to leave Afghanistan … and say, ‘You know what, we didn’t accomplish our mission.'”
- George Frey/Getty Images
Flynn, who was the intelligence director for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, had a tenuous relationship with the Obama administration at the time. He was fired from his position as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after differences with James Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence.
“I was fired … after telling a congressional committee that we were not as safe as we had been a few years back,” Flynn wrote in his memoir, “The Field of Fight.”
Flynn would continue to make disparaging remarks about the Obama administration. He was later tapped by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and then served as his national security adviser. He was ousted from that role in less than a month, however, after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian officials. In 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in connection to its investigation of 2016 Russian election meddling. He is expected to be sentenced later this month.
Jeffrey Eggers, a White House staffer for both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, also questioned whether the US’s efforts in Afghanistan was paying off after the killing of the Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion,” Eggers, a retired US Navy SEAL, told government investigators.
“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,” Eggers added.
The findings of the government review have been considered incriminating when compared with top US officials’ public statements. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told The Post that the report indicated “the American people have constantly been lied to.”
More than 2,300 US troops have died in the 18-year war, in addition to more than 3,800 contractors.
The Defense Department on Monday afternoon denied it had misled Congress or the public.
“Most of the individuals interviewed spoke with the benefit of hindsight,” Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement. “Hindsight has also enabled the Department to evaluate previous approaches and revise our strategy … [the Defense Department] has been very clear that this war will not end on the battlefield.”
“We remain in Afghanistan to protect our national interests and ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven for terrorists who threaten the United States,” Campbell added.