Jack Reed: New Afghanistan exposé spotlights ‘longest war in U.S. history’


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The war in Afghanistan has been going on for so long that it’s possible many Americans rarely think about it.

But 18 years after the Sept. 11 attacks spurred the U.S. to invade, The Washington Post refocused attention on the conflict Monday by publishing an investigation that its editors dubbed “the Afghanistan Papers” — a clear echo of the Pentagon Papers story that in the 1970s exposed American leaders’ duplicity over Vietnam.

“A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable,” Post reporter Craig Whitlock wrote in the accompanying article.

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has watched — and helped shape — American policy in Afghanistan as a member of Congress, an influential Democratic voice on foreign affairs, and more recently his party’s top lawmaker on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

Asked for his reaction to the Post investigation, Reed told WPRI 12 in a statement, “Stories like this remind us of the need for transparency from the White House and Pentagon about the mission, strategy, and costs of the war in Afghanistan. It also highlights the importance of journalism in shining a light, uncovering uncomfortable truths, and focusing public attention and debate.”

“This is the longest war in U.S. history,” he continued. “We should be debating, studying, and questioning it every single day and pushing for a smart, sustainable end to this conflict. We owe our troops a strategy that is worthy of their sacrifice. “

Reed has made 18 trips to Afghanistan since 2001, most recently in April, when he visited that country and Iraq to meet with foreign leaders, American commanders and rank-and-file troops. More recently Reed held an event that called attention to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, which estimates the various post-9/11 conflicts have cost $6.4 trillion so far.

“I don’t think you can just rely on any one source,” Reed said. “Data can be distorted so I do my best to get firsthand information.”

The two American officials leading the Trump administration’s efforts in Afghanistan — Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver and General Austin Scott Miller — are scheduled to appear before the Armed Services Committee this week, and Reed said he is also asking the panel’s chairman, Republican James Inhofe, to “resume the past practice of holding an Afghanistan-specific open posture hearing next year.”

“The Trump administration owes the American people more details about the strategy in Afghanistan,” Reed said, adding, “Nothing less than full transparency and candor are due to the American people.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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