Military reported progress when there was none
Almost lost in the Trump impeachment media storm south of the border was the startling revelation that the American government has been lying about the war in Afghanistan for nearly two decades.
According to a treasure trove of official documents uncovered by the Washington Post, everyone in the U.S. chain of command from the presidential commanders-in-chief to junior field officers – have been deliberately misleading the public about the war’s progress since 2001.
These explosive and revealing documents -- now dubbed The Afghanistan Papers -- detailed how top U.S. officials were reporting ‘progress’ when there was none in order to drum up popular support for a war they themselves knew could not be won.
The Americans played the lead role in Afghanistan. They alone invaded that country and along with their dubious allies known as the Northern Alliance, toppled the Taliban.
At that juncture, the UN authorized what became known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NATO eagerly stepped up to command the alliance forces.
Canada contributed what was to be a single battalion for a single six-month tour of duty. The Taliban had been defeated, the U.S. had appointed Hamid Karzai as the new president and now NATO and Canada were simply tagging along for the victory lap.
The original plan was to quickly build a self-sufficient Afghan security force, hold democratic elections and have our boys and girls home by Christmas. Needless to say, things did not quite work out as planned.
In the end, Canada sent more than 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, before we finally cut our losses and withdrew from the mission in 2014.
During those 12 years Canada lost 158 soldiers killed, another 2000 wounded or injured and untold thousands who suffer from the invisible wounds of PTSD. The dollar figure spent is estimated to top $20 billion by the time all the long-term health care costs are factored in.
As for the current situation, Afghan security forces remain no match for their insurgent counterparts and still rely heavily upon U.S. and NATO combat troops in support.
The opium trade, which the U.S. has spent $9 billion to eradicate, is at an all-time high, and the long ago defeated Taliban are currently negotiating a peace deal with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar.
Given this reality it seems that the explosive Afghanistan Papers are only confirming what even the most self-delusional war hawk already knew: We aren’t winning this war and we never were.
This is what makes the reaction to the Afghanistan Papers by Canada’s defence minister seem a little bizarre. Harjit Sajjan served three tours of duty in Kandahar as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Instead of taking exception to the fact that the U.S. military leadership was “at war with the truth’ as concluded in the Afghanistan Papers, Sajjan seemed to double down on the false narrative. In a recent interview with the iPolitics news site, Sajjan claimed, “I would say the insights the Canadians provided were actually very useful. That’s the one point I’m trying to get across here.”
Sajjan went on to say, “Canadians were providing a very good perspective, and very early on, to have a much more, I would say, accurate account of what is happening.”
As one who covered the war in Afghanistan closely from the outset, I call ‘bullshit’ on Sajjan’s claim.
The senior Canadian officials painted just as rosy a picture of events as their American counterparts, and they were just as false.
In fact, it was considered to be unpatriotic for journalists to question any aspect of the war in Afghanistan. The slogan of the Canadian war hawks was, “if you don’t support the mission, you don’t support the troops.” Turns out they were lying to us all along about the mission.
A full parliamentary inquiry into how Canada’s leadership alone stumbled into such a costly fiasco is long overdue. Our troops at least deserve the truth. They paid the price.