Post Reports

The Afghanistan Papers

After a three-year legal battle, The Post obtains hundreds of records of candid interviews assessing the war in Afghanistan and its failures.
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Post Reports is the premier daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Every weekday afternoon.

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When the United States attacked Afghanistan in October of 2001, the mission was simple: Defeat al-Qaeda and drive them out of the country that had harbored them as they plotted the 9/11 attacks. 
 
Al-Qaeda’s forces were driven out of Afghanistan in months, but the Americans stayed, and stayed. Now in its 19th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest one the U.S. has been engaged in, and the official line has always been a variation of “there’s progress” or “we’re turning a corner.” That, at least, was the public line. 

Now, after a three-year legal battle to acquire a trove of transcripts and audio recordings, Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock talks to host Martine Powers about interviews conducted with key players and participants of the war in Afghanistan from ambassadors to generals to people who worked with NGOs. They give their frank assessment of how the war had an unclear mission, poor strategy and even lacked clarity on whom the U.S. was fighting.  

The interviews with some 400 people were part of a project called “Lessons Learned,” undertaken by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. These Afghanistan papers are a secret history of the war, Whitlock tells Powers, and “they contain these frank admissions of how the war was screwed up and that what the American people were being told about the war wasn’t true.” 

“They really do bring to mind the Pentagon Papers, which were the Defense Department’s top-secret history of the Vietnam War,” Whitlock says. 

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the premier daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Every weekday afternoon.