Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"what’s clear now is that Bush’s strategy and Obama’s strategy [in Afghanistan] were mirror opposites but neither of them worked"

From an interview with the author of the recent Washington Post articles about the war in Afghanistan:

Do you have a sense of why people throughout government, in the military, in the bureaucracy, in the various Administrations, who coöperated with this project and spoke honestly about some of the problems in Afghanistan, and some of the deception of their colleagues, did not speak publicly about these things?

That’s a really good question, and I think there are different answers. I am guessing a little bit on some of it, but for people who are not senior, they were worried they will be shot down, that their careers will be frozen or they will lose their jobs. Why wouldn’t General Lute or General Flynn speak up? That’s a good question. I think, though, that the irony of these documents is that most of the people spoke honestly and forthrightly and extremely candidly, because they thought their names would never become public. It is like that old joke in Washington that people tell the truth as long as their name isn’t associated with it. People opened up because they thought it wouldn’t come back to haunt them. And yet our argument was that these are public records, and we have been able to strip back that layer of secrecy somewhat.


Over the past ten years, I have been covering national security full time in Washington. The way we found out about these documents was the old-fashioned way. We got a tip back in August of 2016 that Michael Flynn had given this unpublished interview about the Afghan war. We heard he said some really interesting things. You have to remember that it was not long after the Republican National Convention, when he became notorious for yelling “Lock her up!” He was a big supporter of Trump. But he was known as a general who spoke his mind, and so we were curious what this guy said about the war in Afghanistan.