In a rare insight into the front lines of America’s ten-year war in Afghanistan, an article in Armed Forces Journal by a career officer and three-war veteran says that official reports that conditions in Afghanistan are improving are false, hopes to establish proficient local governments and a self-sufficient Afghan military are fleeting, and the United States’ war effort can be characterized by “the absence of success on virtually every level.”
Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis arrived in Afghanistan in 2010. It didn’t take long, he writes, to notice “little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people.”
“Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with,” he writes, “said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government. … From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.”
March 2010’s official report from the Department of Defense tells a different tale. “The government of Afghanistan’s authority,” it reads, “had been successfully extended and development projects were ongoing, including… the establishment of enduring [Afghan National Police] checkpoints and police stations for permanent presence of Afghan governance and rule of law.”
The disconnect between the official report and Lt. Col. Davis’ accounts are striking. Members of Congress, Lt. Col. Davis alleges, have decided to keep some statements from the public and the war lacks transparency. The spin, he writes, appears to illuminate a pathway to success while the full picture remains a mystery.
The content of unclassified reporting such as Lt. Col. Davis’ article has shrunk as the war has continued, says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman writes that reporters “were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 through 2009.”
Shortly before the release of the official March 2010 report that Lt. Col. Davis’ observations contradict, CNN polling shows public opposition to the Afghanistan War was at an all-time high.
Senior American leaders, Davis writes, need to be “candid” when discussing what’s at stake with the nation at war. And when deciding to continue a war, he concludes, Congress has an obligation to the American people to tell “the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose.”