The Afghanistan Papers

The Afghanistan Papers

Name - The Afghanistan Papers

Reviews - 5.0/5

Pages - 368

By - Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post


About Book The Afghanistan Papers

The groundbreaking investigative story of how three successive presidents and their military commanders deceived {the public|the general public|people} year after year about America's longest war, foreshadowing the Taliban's recapture of Afghanistan, by Washington Post reporter and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Whitlock.

Unlike the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had near-unanimous public support. {At first|In the beginning|Initially}, the goals were straightforward and clear: to defeat al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of 9/11. Yet {soon after|right after|immediately after} the United States and its allies removed the Taliban from power, the mission veered off course and US officials lost sight {of their|of the|of these} original objectives.

Distracted by the war in Iraq, the US military became mired {in an|within an|in a} unwinnable guerrilla conflict in {a country|a nation} it {did not|didn't} understand. But no president {wanted to|desired to|wished to} admit failure, especially in {a war|a battle} that began as a just cause. Instead, the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations sent more and more troops to Afghanistan and repeatedly said {they were|they certainly were|these were} making progress, {even though|although} they knew {there was|there clearly was|there is} no realistic prospect for {an outright|an overall} victory.

Just {as the|whilst the|because the|since the|while the} Pentagon Papers changed the public's {understanding of|knowledge of|comprehension of} Vietnam, The Afghanistan Papers contains startling revelation after revelation from {people who|individuals who|those who} played {a direct|an immediate|a primary} role in the war, from leaders in the White House and the Pentagon to soldiers and aid workers on {the front|the leading|leading} lines. In unvarnished language, they admit that the US government's strategies were {a mess|chaos|in pretty bad shape}, that the nation-building project was a colossal failure, and that drugs and corruption gained a stranglehold over their allies in the Afghan government. All told, the account {is based on|is dependant on|is founded on} interviews {with more|with increased|with an increase of} than 1,000 {people who|individuals who|those who} knew that the US government was presenting a distorted, and sometimes entirely fabricated, version of {the facts|the reality|the important points} on the ground.

Documents unearthed by The Washington Post {reveal that|demonstrate that} President Bush didn't know the name of his Afghanistan war commander—and didn't want {to make|to create|to produce} time {to meet|to generally meet|to meet up} with him. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted {he had|he'd} “no visibility into who the {bad guys|criminals|crooks} are.” His successor, Robert Gates, said: “We didn't know jack shit about al-Qaeda.”

The Afghanistan Papers {is a|is just a|is really a} shocking account {that will|that'll|which will|that may} supercharge {a long|an extended|a lengthy} overdue reckoning over what went wrong and forever change {the way the|how a|what sort of} conflict is remembered.

 Editorial Reviews 

U.S. government and military officials took part in an “unspoken conspiracy to mask the truth” about the war in Afghanistan, according to this searing chronicle. Expanding on a series of articles published in the Washington Post, Whitlock explains how he learned, in 2016, about a government program to interview hundreds of participants in the war for a report on policy failures in Afghanistan called “Lessons Learned.” Drawing on these transcripts and other oral history projects, Whitlock paints a devastating portrait of how public messaging about the conflict consistently belied the reality on the ground. He details internal rivalries in the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, and the fatigue and pessimism of soldiers on the front lines. (“We were just going around killing people,” says one special forces officer.) A costly program to eradicate opium poppy fields in Helmand province backfired spectacularly, turning the region into a “lethal stronghold for the insurgency” and earning harsh criticism from veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke and others. Whitlock also delves into the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration’s skewing of statistics to support its war strategy, evidence of Afghan government corruption, and the Trump administration’s complex peace plan with the Taliban. Rigorously detailed and relentlessly pessimistic, this is a heartbreaking look at how America’s leaders “chose to bury their mistakes and let the war drift.” (Sept.)

Publishers Weekly

"Fast-paced and vivid... chock-full of telling quotes"
The New York Times Book Review

“Craig Whitlock has forged a searing indictment of the deceit, blunders and hubris of senior military and civilian officials, with the same tragic echoes of the Vietnam conflict. The American dead, wounded and their families deserved wiser and more honorable leaders.”
Tom Bowman, NPR Pentagon correspondent

"The excellent new book... Bombshell revelations... [and] damning evidence of things we already intuited.”
The Washington Post

“At once page-turning and rigorous, The Afghanistan Papers makes a lasting and revelatory contribution to the record of America's tragic management of our longest war. In transparent and nuanced detail, Whitlock chronicles how American leaders and commanders undermined their country's promises to the Afghans who counted on them and to the U.S. troops who made the ultimate sacrifice after 9/11.”
Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars and Directorate S

“The Afghanistan Papers is a gripping account of why the war in Afghanistan lasted so long. The missed opportunities, the outright mistakes and more than anything the first-hand accounts from senior commanders who only years later acknowledged they simply did not tell the American people what they knew about how the war was going.”
Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon correspondent

“A damning account of America’s longest war that reveals what top generals and government officials really knew about the cost and futility of the mission. Whitlock puts the pieces together in a way nobody has before, bringing us the most comprehensive, inside story of this conflict ever told.”
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan

“The Afghanistan Papers is an autopsy of America’s folly into central Asia. It chronicles years of recklessness and bad decision-making that the nation is still grappling with today. This book is one part indictment of mission creep and American hubris, and one part warning to future leaders.”
Kevin Maurer, co-author of The New York Times bestsellers No Easy Day and American Radical

About the Author

Craig Whitlock is an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. He has covered the global war on terrorism for the Post since 2001 as a foreign correspondent, Pentagon reporter, and national security specialist. In 2019, his coverage of the war in Afghanistan won the George Polk Award for Military Reporting, the Scripps Howard Award for Investigative Reporting, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Freedom of Information Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for international reporting. He has reported from more than sixty countries and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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