The Wall Street Journal: Newly released U.S. government documents reveal military doubts about Afghan conflict

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A newly disclosed cache of government documents has revealed that U.S. and allied officials harbored doubts for years over the management and direction of the conflict in Afghanistan, America’s longest-running war.

The documents, released by a government office set up to monitor the U.S.-led effort to rebuild the country, includes notes from previously unpublished interviews involving key decision makers, including civilian and military leaders.


A U.S. Marine talks in July 2017 with Afghan National Army soldiers during a training exercise in Helmand Province.

Many of the documents reflect views consistent with previously published accounts of the conflict, including the regular reports by the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, which compiled them and conducted the interviews. But the blunt assessments of important decision makers are likely to lead to new scrutiny of the Afghan conflict and provide ammunition to critics of the U.S. effort.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Douglas Lute, who as a three-star Army general oversaw White House policy in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013, speaking in one of the most hard-hitting interviews, conducted in 2015.

“What are we trying to do here?” Lute added. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

An expanded version of this report appears at

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