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“The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War” with Ryan Crocker, Lt. General Douglas Lute & Craig Whitlock

The reporter, the general and the ambassador discuss stunning revelations from a new Washington Post book “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War" (Video: The Washington Post)
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It is America’s longest war with over 2,300 dead and more than 20,000 casualties. Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock, author of the new Washington Post book, “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War,” will discuss stunning revelations about the war in Afghanistan and offer powerful, inside perspective on new evidence that the recent Afghan collapse was years in the making. Whitlock will be joined by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and former U.S. Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute (Ret.).

Click here for transcript


Ryan Crocker said Islamic militants see the U.S.’s withdrawal as a “huge victory,” and warned of the dangerous implications this could have for the future. “Unlike Vietnam, what happens in Afghanistan is not going to stay in Afghanistan… This is being portrayed as a huge victory for… Islamic militants, and that is transnational by definition… So, we are entering a brave new world, a very dangerous phase, and I’m afraid we’re going to find out, you know what, the war isn’t over.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said the chief of security for Osama bin Laden has invited Taliban members to assemble with Al-Qaeda. “Afghanistan was a national security threat that needed to be matched, and the critical nexus was the Taliban and it’s links to Al-Qaeda. They went into exile rather than accept our ultimatum in 2001 that said ‘hand over Al-Qaeda and we’ll leave you alone.’ They chose exile over that… We’ve now heard that Al-Qaeda’s chief of security for Osama Bin Laden, ‘Heroes welcome in Nangahar.’ So, the band’s getting back together. And I fear that this is going to be a problem for our children and our grandchildren.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Lute said the nuclear weapons in Pakistan and India mean tension in the region could have global impact. “The vital national interests in this region are really two… One was really the ability to safeguard the homeland… The second was the stability of the Pakistani state because of now 200 million people, existential conflict with its neighbor India and about 200 nuclear weapons. So it’s important here that we keep our eyes on Pakistan because what happens there is likely to have the most significant regional and global impacts.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Whitlock said three U.S. administrations claimed not to be involved in nation-building while concurrently building up the Afghan state, institutions and police. “Bush and Obama and also President Trump promised in public, they said ‘We’re not nation-building in Afghanistan,’ even though each of them knew to differing degrees that we were trying to build up the Afghan state and Afghan institutions, Afghan army, that’s exactly what we were doing.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The author also said the U.S. presence in Afghanistan drew militant groups to the region. “The lesson we haven’t quite learned yet is what kind of counterterrorism strategy should we have?... A big part of the reason Afghanistan became a magnet for so many of these fighters was because we had a presence there. They saw us as the foreign occupiers… and their goal was to force us to leave, which they’ve now accomplished.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The former army lieutenant general said the U.S. can be proud of the last few weeks in Afghanistan even “if not…of the whole 20-year venture” in the country. “Imagine the relief of those soldiers, after being for two weeks in a vulnerable position, literally an island surrounded by uncertainty… We can be proud, if not obviously of the whole 20 year venture in Afghanistan, we can be proud and should be proud of what we’ve delivered in these last several weeks.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The former army lieutenant general said the U.S. has developed its counterterrorism apparatus over the last two decades. “If the goal is security of the homeland, then it seems to be we have profited, we’ve taken advantage of the last 20 years… Our homeland is a much harder counterterrorism target today than it was on September 11… While we did not create or build the Afghan state… what we did accomplish fundamentally was secure the homeland. ” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Ryan Crocker

Ryan Crocker is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Other academic appointments have included Diplomat in Residence at Princeton University, inaugural Kissinger Fellow at Yale University, the James Schlesinger Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia, and TexasA&M where he was Dean of the Bush School of Government. He was a career Foreign Service Officer who served six times as an American Ambassador: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He serves on the Board of Advisors of No One Left Behind, an NGO dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promises to Afghans and Iraqis who risked their lives to support us.He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2009. Other recent awards include the West Point Association of Graduates Thayer Award in 2020 and the inaugural Bancroft Award, presented by the Naval Academy in 2016. Also in 2016, he was named an Honorary Fellow of the Literary and Historical Society at University College

Lt. General Douglas Lute (U.S. Army, Ret.)

Ambassador Douglas Lute is the former United States Ambassador to NATO. Appointed by President Obama, he assumed the Brussels-based post in 2013 and served until 2017. During this period, he was instrumental in designing and implementing the 28-nation Alliance responses to the most severe security challenges in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

A career Army officer, in 2010 Lute retired from active duty as a lieutenant general after 35 years of service. In 2007 President Bush named him as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor to coordinate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009 he was the senior White House official retained by President Obama and his focus on the National Security Council staff shifted to South Asia. Across these two Administrations, he served a total of six years in the White House.

Before being assigned to the White House, General Lute served as Director of Operations (J3) on the Joint Staff, overseeing U.S. military operations worldwide. From 2004 to 2006, he was Director of Operations for the United States Central Command, with responsibility for U.S. military operations in 25 countries across the Middle East, eastern Africa and Central Asia, in which over 200,000 U.S. troops operated.

Through his military-diplomatic career, he received numerous honors and awards, including three awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, the Grand Officer of the Order of Merit for the Italian Republic, and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit for the Federal Republic of Germany.

General Lute holds degrees from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and United States Military Academy at West Point, which named him a Distinguished Graduate in 2018. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a charter member of the Senior Military Advisory Group of the United States Institute of Peace; a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy; and a member of the board of the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Craig Whitlock

Craig Whitlock is an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. He has covered the global war on terrorism for the Post since 2001 as a foreign correspondent, Pentagon reporter, and national security specialist. His coverage of the war in Afghanistan in 2019 won the George Polk Award for Military Reporting, the Scripps Howard Award for Investigative Reporting, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Freedom of Information Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for international reporting. He has reported from more than 60 countries and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Moderated by David Ignatius

David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column for The Washington Post. Ignatius has written 11 spy novels: “The Paladin” (2020), “The Quantum Spy,” (2017), “The Director,” (2014), “Bloodmoney” (2011), “The Increment” (2009), “Body of Lies” (2007), “The Sun King” (1999), “A Firing Offense” (1997), “The Bank of Fear” (1994), “SIRO” (1991), and “Agents of Innocence” (1987). “Body of Lies” was made into a 2008 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Ignatius joined The Post in 1986 as editor of its Sunday Outlook section. In 1990 he became foreign editor, and in 1993, assistant managing editor for business news. He began writing his column in 1998 and continued even during a three-year stint as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Earlier in his career, Ignatius was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering at various times the steel industry, the Departments of State and Justice, the CIA, the Senate and the Middle East. Ignatius grew up in Washington, D.C., and studied political theory at Harvard College and economics at Kings College, Cambridge. He lives in Washington with his wife and has three daughters.