The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
US denies public was lied to about 'lack of Afghanistan progress' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

US denies public was lied to about 'lack of Afghanistan progress'

The senior US officials denied all allegations following WaPo reports [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 December, 2019

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley rejected allegations that the Pentagon and other government agencies had falsely reported progress in Afghanistan.
Top US defence officials denied on Friday that the military had for years hidden from the public its lack of progress in the Afghan war.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley rejected allegations that the Pentagon and other government agencies had falsely reported progress while internally officials were deeply skeptical about the war.

"This has been very transparent. It's not like this war was hiding somewhere," Esper told reporters.

"Between all the folks looking at this conflict over the years, some type of insinuation that there's been this large-scale conspiracy is just, to me, ridiculous," he said.

Milley added to reporters attending a press conference that although he knows there's an assertion out there "of some sort of coordinated lie over the course of 18 years... I find that a mischaracterisation."

"I know that I and many, many others gave assessments at the time based on facts that we knew at the time," Milley said.

"And those were honest assessments and they were never intended to deceive either the Congress or the American people."

The remarks emerged after The Washington Post last week began publishing what it called "The Afghanistan Papers", a trove of internal government documents documenting the failure to defeat the Islamist Taliban group and to strengthen the Afghan government. 

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

'Very good' journalism

Milley called The Post reporting "a very, very good piece of investigative journalism."

But he insisted that documents were "backwards-looking" interviews and assessments made to review the US experience and not to mask it - unlike the Pentagon Papers, which when leaked in 1971 showed much more manipulative behaviour by the government over the Vietnam war.

Milley said US forces have been successful in rooting out Al-Qaeda, the Afghanistan-based jihadist group behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and to punish their protectors, the Taliban.

"Our original objective going into Afghanistan on the seventh of October, 2001 was to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a platform to launch terrorist attacks on the continent of the United States," he said.

"And that's what we set out to do and to date that's been successful.

"For years we have clearly stated that there's not going to be a rational, reasonable chance of a military victory against the Taliban or the insurgency," Milley said.

"President Bush said that, early on, before Christmas in 2001. And that remains true today."

US mission still not complete

With 13,000 US troops still in the country and the Taliban as strong as ever, Milley called the situation a "strategic stalemate" that can only be solved by a negotiated peace settlement between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

We have a mission in Afghanistan that is to ensure that it never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists
- Mark Esper, Defence Secretary 

He emphasised that the United States had a "vital national security interest" to be in the country.

"Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have given their lives in Afghanistan have not given their lives in vain."

Esper said the Pentagon had an important reason to be present.

"We have a mission in Afghanistan that is to ensure that it never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

"So until we are confident that that mission is complete, we will retain a presence to do that."

Meanwhile, talks between the United States and the Taliban resumed earlier this month as the parties sought a path to reduce violence or even reach a ceasefire. 

NBC cited three current and former US officials as saying the Trump administration intends to announce the drawdown of 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.

Two of those said some of the troops would be redeploying early, while others would not be replaced when they end their term.

CNN cited one official in the Trump administration as saying the announcement on a drawdown could happen, but that the "timing remains in flux".

The State Department did not reply to an AFP request to comment, and the Pentagon referred questions to the White House, which had no immediate comment.

According to a draft agreement from September - reached after years of negotiations - the Taliban would be required to commit to certain security measures, agree to talks with the Afghan government and promise a reduction of violence in exchange for a US troop withdrawal. 

US President Donald Trump insisted last month on the need for a ceasefire and made a surprise visit to Bagram air base in Afghanistan on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with troops and meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay connected

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More