It’s easy to criticize the American effort in Afghanistan. Among its many shortcomings, Washington has vacillated across numerous ineffective strategies, failed to fully account for the geopolitical constraints of the conflict, and consistently prioritized expediency over effectiveness. But did U.S. officials pervasively lie to the American people about the war? The Washington Post seems to think so, as evidenced by the first sentence of its “Afghanistan Papers” articles published last week: “A confidential trove of government documents … reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” It’s no surprise that the series has gotten a fair amount of attention.
But is that claim accurate? Unfortunately, it’s not. The story the Post is telling is neither wholly true, nor supported by the documents it published. Instead, the Post’s reporting puts sensationalist spin on information that was not classified, has already been described in publicly-available reports, only covers a fraction of the 18 years of the war, and falls far short of convincingly demonstrating a campaign of deliberate lies and deceit.