Then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan, flies over Farah City onboard an Italian CH-47C Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, January 22, 2010.Defense Department
- Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, found himself in the spotlight for his critical statements on America’s war in Afghanistan.
- His statements prompted an extensive Washington Post investigation on the history of misleading characterizations of the war from numerous other US officials.
- Officials and advisers spanning the White House and the Pentagon regularly peddled an optimistic view of Afghanistan’s progress in securing the country, despite holding private reservations.
- “From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn said to investigators, according to documents and audio recordings obtained by The Post. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”
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Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, found himself in the spotlight for his prior statements about America’s war in Afghanistan. The statements prompted an extensive investigation on the history of misleading characterizations of the war from numerous other US officials.
A Washington Post report on Monday reinforced the uncertainty of the war’s progress by publishing undisclosed government interviews of senior military leaders. Throughout the years, officials and advisers spanning the White House and the Pentagon regularly peddled an optimistic view of Afghanistan’s progress, despite holding private reservations, according to the interviews.
Flynn’s unpublished comments about the war, which were made in a November 2015 interview with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), sparked The Post’s three-year investigation into what is now dubbed “The Afghanistan Papers.”
“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn said to SIGAR investigators, according to documents and audio recordings obtained by The Post. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”
“So they all went in for whatever their rotation was, nine months or six months, and were given that mission, accepted that mission and executed that mission,” Flyn added, referring to the mission of newly deployed military leaders. “Then they all said, when they left, they accomplished that mission. Every single commander. Not one commander is going to leave Afghanistan … and say, ‘You know what, we didn’t accomplish our mission.'”
President Donald Trump and Michael Flynn.George Frey/Getty Images
Flynn, who was the intelligence director for the NATO’s coalition in Afghanistan, had a tenuous relationship with the Obama administration at the time. He was fired from his position as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, after differences with James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence.
“I was fired … after telling a congressional committee that we were not as safe as we had been a few years back,” Flynn wrote in his memoir, “The Field of Fight.”
Flynn would continue to make disparaging remarks about the Obama administration. He was later tapped by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and served as his national security adviser. Flynn’s tenure was cut short after 24 days. Later he was found to have lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Russian officials. In 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI. He will be sentenced later in December.
Jeffrey Eggers, a White House staffer for both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also questioned whether the US’s efforts in Afghanistan was paying off after the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion,” Eggers, a retired US Navy SEAL, said to government investigators.
“After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan,” Eggers added.
The findings have been considered incriminating when compared to the private and public statements. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, told The Post that the report indicated “the American people have constantly been lied to.”
Roughly 2,351 US troops have died in the 18-year war, in addition to over 3,800 contractors.
The Defense Department on Monday afternoon denied it had misled Congress or the public.
“Most of the individuals interviewed spoke with the benefit of hindsight,” Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement. “Hindsight has also enabled the Department to evaluate previous approaches and revise our strategy … [the Defense Department] has been very clear that this war will not end on the battlefield.”
“We remain in Afghanistan to protect our national interests and ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven for terrorists who threaten the United States,” Campbell added.