On Monday, The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, a major years-long investigation into the costs and conducts of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. These papers largely consist of more than 400 interviews conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)’s for its Lessons Learned project.
Taken together, those interviewed paint a picture of senior political and military leaders as either systematically deluded or intentionally misleading others about both the true costs and consequences of the U.S.’s longest war and of the odds of eventual victory. The butcher’s bill is staggering: an estimated 43,000 Afghan civilians killed, surely an undercount, along with more than 45,000 Afghan soldiers and police, approximately 42,100 Taliban fighters, 2,300 U.S. military personnel, 3,814 U.S. contractors and 1,145 NATO and coalition troops. The financial toll for the United States has now exceeded $1 trillion.