EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
While politicians and pundits debate “who lost Afghanistan,” that question will likely seem very distant from many Americans’ lives. Indeed, more than two-thirds supported the decision to withdraw. If anything, most Americans might wonder how the United States came to be in the position to “lose” Afghanistan in the first place.
There should be a serious accounting for the Afghanistan debacle. The United States waged its longest war in a distant, impoverished country of only minimal strategic importance. After two decades, more than 775,000 troops deployed, far more than $1 trillion spent, more than 2,300 US deaths and 20,500 wounded in action, tens of thousands of Afghani civilian deaths, the United States managed to create little more than a kleptocracy, whose swift collapse culminated in the death and panic seen at the Kabul airport on Monday.
Rather than focusing on how we got out, it would be far wiser to focus on how we got in. The accounting can draw from the official record exposed by The Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers project. The papers come from an internal investigation by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, based on interviews with hundreds of officials who guided the mission. Their words are a savage and telling indictment.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.