Afghanistan Papers • Elections

Trump’s Beltway Critics Failed in Afghanistan

Turns out, the same class of experts that claims the president is the biggest threat to global security in 70 years has been the legitimate threat.

As I wrote earlier this week, Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden has plenty of explaining to do and not just about his son’s sweet gig with a corrupt Ukrainian energy company.

Biden, in the wake of an explosive exposé by the Washington Post, needs to account for his nearly two-decade involvement in the disastrous war in Afghanistan.

Few politicians in Washington have more fingerprints on the war’s failed planning and execution than Joe Biden: As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 10 years, then vice president for eight, Biden supported the 2001 invasion; co-authored the 2002 bill to authorize reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan (at a cost of least $130 billion in U.S. tax dollars and climbing) and went along with Barack Obama’s surge of U.S. troops, which began a decade ago this month.

Despite his possessing almost the reverse of a Midas Touch when it comes to foreign affairs—Afghanistan is just one of Biden’s many and storied mishaps—Biden is earning endorsements from the Beltway’s national security crowd, Democrats and Republicans alike. Coincidentally, many of Biden’s supporters populate the same disgruntled diplomatic corps that has opposed Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy and now are attempting to oust him from the White House: The House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was animated by the self-righteous musings of career State Department bureaucrats who think they, not the president, should set foreign policy.

After Trump released the transcript of his July 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president, now serving as the pretext for impeachment, more than 300 national security officials signed a letter that insisted the conversation was an impeachable offense.

“There is no escaping that what we already know is serious enough to merit impeachment proceedings,” they wrote. “From there, the facts—and nothing but the facts—should dictate how Congress holds the President to account and signals to the world that our foreign policy and national security are not for sale.”

One of the signers of the Foggy Bottom tirade was Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. Burns is a Biden backer and outspoken critic of President Trump. (He voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.)

“Vice President Biden [is] so competent, so professional about defense of the United States, his mastery of national security policy,” Burns cooed in an October 2019 interview on MSNBC. Burns accused President Trump of “weakening” the United States on the global stage.

It’s not the only time Burns has condemned Donald Trump. He’s a frequent columnist in Trump-hating outlets such as the Washington Post and New York Times, and is a reliable anti-Trump quote machine for any author writing an article about the president’s allegedly dangerous approach to international affairs.

In February 2019, Burns produced a report commemorating NATO’s 70th Anniversary. The document, however, was not a celebration of the post-World War II pact. Instead, it was a lengthy rebuke of Donald Trump, the American president these self-proclaimed experts warn has created a crisis in the alliance. “NATO’s single greatest challenge is the absence of strong, principled American presidential leadership for the first time in its history. President Donald Trump is regarded widely in NATO capitals as the Alliance’s most urgent, and often most difficult, problem.”

Our allies’ concerns about Trump are so grave that NATO organized a “scaled-down leaders meeting” last year, the report disclosed, for fear Trump would make a scene. (The horror!) The president, in fact, did make a scene when he confronted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for welching on his country’s NATO financial commitment.

“Congress needs to be a blocking force against President Trump,” Burns, now a professor at Harvard Kennedy School, said in a video that accompanied the report’s release. The onetime advisor to former Secretary of State John Kerry detailed all the international challenges—from China to Russia to Afghanistan—that NATO confronts while conveniently overlooking the fact that his former bosses created the global mess that Donald Trump now is trying to clean up.

Burns’ co-author of the report is Doug Lute, the U.S. ambassador to NATO during Barack Obama’s second term. Lute often accuses Trump of acting as a stooge for the Kremlin in his “attacks” on NATO. Lute attended a pricey fundraiser for Biden in Washington last November and has endorsed his run for president.

But while Burns and Lute warn that President Trump is a menace to world peace, their now-public testimony about the war in Afghanistan reveals the endemic mismanagement of the nearly two-decade-long debacle, a conflict during which both of these supremely confident diplomats once rode shotgun.

Despite his current assurances about the value of NATO, in his interview with the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, Burns repeatedly questions the effectiveness of the alliance in the early stages of the war when he was ambassador. “So, one of the things we were looking at NATO in 2003, 2004 and 2005…was who is going to run the drug effort? Who is going to run the policing effort? Who is going to run reconstruction? Who is going to run infrastructure, and some of the countries were very good and some were absolute failures, the NATO members who took leads.”

Burns called the NATO command in Afghanistan “disjointed” as the situation gradually deteriorated and America shifted its focus to the war in Iraq, which also was “going very badly,” according to Burns. “I don’t remember us asking very tough questions,” Burns admitted. “I fault myself.”

Lute was even harsher in his assessment. Like Burns, Lute described widespread dysfunction in how the war was handled. “If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction … 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this was in vain?” Lute asked rhetorically in his February 2015 interview.

Lute explained how Obama’s national security team, including National Security Advisor Susan Rice, were schooled in policy but not war planning. “There was a structural gap: there were two wars going on and we didn’t have anyone speaking strategically. There was a gap, or a void, in trying to connect ends, ways, and means.” Lute also criticized Obama’s 2010 troop surge as a failed go-it-alone plan that should have involved the Afghans.

Tens of billions were poured into the war effort each year without any accountability. “No one is paying attention in an interagency sense to resources,” Lute said. “Once in a while, OK, we can overspend. We are a rich country and can pour money down a hole and it doesn’t bust the bank. But should we?”

Then this candid comment: “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan—we didn’t know what we were doing.”

The war in Afghanistan has been a failure by any measure. It has cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $1 trillion, including more than $130 billion to futilely rebuild the primitive country. Over three-quarters of a million American soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan over the past 18 years; 2,351 did not make it home alive and over 20,000 came home wounded or disfigured. Nearly all, we can sadly assume, carry deep emotional scars to this day.

And now we have first-hand accounts from the war’s architects and handlers about what a disaster it has been all along. The same class of experts that claims Donald Trump is the biggest threat to global security in 70 years has been the legitimate threat. They knew the war was going poorly, that young American patriots were dying needlessly, that U.S. tax dollars were being wasted, and they said nothing.

On the contrary, they helped mislead the American public and Congress that things were going just as planned.

Now, suddenly, they have found their collective voice—not to come clean about their incompetence or to apologize to the families who paid the ultimate price but to accuse Donald Trump of risking our security with his neophyte ways. His lack of manners and self-serving business background and brash deal making just isn’t the right pedigree for the refined diplomatic aristocracy.

But in reality, it is they, not Donald Trump, who are the rank amateurs. We can only hope that their ongoing war against the president is one more war they lose.

Afghanistan Papers • Elections

Afghanistan Is Joe Biden’s War

It’s easy for the Democratic frontrunner to claim now that he would order troops home if he’s elected president. But first, the former vice president needs to account for the disaster that he and Barack Obama left for Donald Trump to clean up.

Joe Biden often brags that he was Barack Obama’s foreign affairs consigliere during their eight years together in the White House.

One of the reasons Barack Obama picked me as vice president is because he lacked the background in foreign policy,” Biden told an NPR reporter in December. “He knew what he wanted to do, he knew how to get it done. But notice every time we had a problem on Capitol Hill, who went up and got it fixed?” Biden, of course, was referring to himself.

But as Obama’s legacy on international affairs implodes under the glare of Donald Trump’s brighter achievements, the role of Obama’s self-proclaimed BFF and global guru deserves long-delayed scrutiny. And no other Obama-era debacle merits more scrutiny than the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest-running war that continues to cost young lives and tens of billions in U.S. tax dollars each year.

In an explosive series published last month in the Washington Post, “The Afghanistan Papers” provides firsthand accounts from the war’s closest managers. Dozens of interviews offer insight into how the conflict has been mishandled from the start; how intelligence has been politicized; and how top officials, including former commanders-in-chief, have deceived the public and Congress about the real status of the war.

The Post series raises tough questions for Biden, too. As a top senator and then vice president, he has been a key figure in the disastrous conflict for longer than anyone else in Washington. Biden’s fingerprints can be found on nearly every aspect of the war, from authorizing the 2001 invasion to initiating expensive, failed reconstruction efforts and supporting his BFF’s escalation of the conflict during Obama’s first term.

If he wins the White House and Trump fails to bring all our troops home, Joe Biden will inherit a war he blessed nearly two decades before.

Revising the Record

Biden, as is his habit, now is trying to rewrite his own history, particularly his alleged objection to Obama’s “surge” that sent tens of thousands more U.S. troops into the war zone.

One decade ago this month, the troop surge authorized by the Obama-Biden White House began in Afghanistan. The Pentagon, acting on President Obama’s orders, began deploying more than 30,000 additional troops to reverse the deteriorating situation in that country at the time.

Obama announced his decision in December 2009 after months of internal debate among his top advisors and military brass over competing proposals. Biden was closely involved in the deliberations.

Obama settled on a compromise plan; fewer troops than the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, wanted but more than Biden had recommended.

Obama, a commander-in-chief with no military experience, also insisted on an 18-month timetable before a mandatory drawdown would commence, regardless of success. Troops would start coming home, coincidentally, just as Obama and Biden launched their 2012 reelection campaign.

Biden, also lacking military service and the recipient of five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, had pushed for a smaller footprint and a quick exit even though he had proposed a surge during his 2008 run for president. Biden at the time called Obama, his Democratic primary opponent, a “Johnny-come-lately” for endorsing his proposal to redirect troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. “If we surge troops anywhere, it should be in Afghanistan,” Biden said on the campaign trail in 2007.

But Biden transformed into a skeptic in 2008 after visiting the war-torn nation and a publicized blow-up with Hamid Karzai, the country’s leader at the time. As vice president, Biden resisted plans to send upwards of 40,000 American soldiers to Afghanistan, the initial strategy endorsed by Obama’s military chiefs in 2009.

Now that the Afghanistan papers have prompted renewed public interest in the ongoing war, Biden is backtracking on his involvement in Obama’s surge strategy. During a debate last month, Biden claimed, “I’m the guy, from the beginning, who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan. Period. We should not have done it and I argued against it constantly.”

That’s not the full story.

“No One Said Anything”

Although Biden opposed the military’s 40,000-plus troop build-up, he did not reject the idea of adding more troops. According to the book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran which chronicled the pre-surge planning and execution, Biden in fact supported a plan to send 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

While Obama considered his options, Biden prepared a memo that outlined his concerns and offered an alternative. “Biden…did not want to cut and run,” Chandrasekaran wrote. “[He] was willing to send about 20,000 additional troops so long as they were focused on training the Afghan army and conducting missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders.”

Chandrasekaran called Biden’s alternative a “limited surge.”

And when “No Malarkey” Joe had the chance to object to sending tens of thousands of young Americans halfway around the world to fight a losing war that had been deprioritized for another war that Biden backed—the Iraq war—the vice president was uncharacteristically silent. In a New York Times article published in December 2009, reporter Peter Baker described the meeting between Obama’s national security team right before the president signed off on the final plan.

Obama asked each adviser, including Biden, to register any disagreement. “‘If you do not agree with me, say so now,’ Obama told the group assembled in the Oval Office the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2009. ‘There was a pause and no one said anything,’” Baker wrote.

Obama reiterated his request. “‘Tell me now,’ he repeated. Biden asked only if this constituted a presidential order.” So, contrary to his tough talk on the campaign trail, Joe Biden, when given the final chance, did not tell Obama that he opposed the surge.

Troop levels hit an all-time high the following year, bringing the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 by the end of 2010. As fighting escalated between 2010 and 2012, more than 1,200 American soldiers were killed, representing over half the total number of U.S. casualties in the 18-year conflict.

In January 2011, Biden met with Karzai and touted the surge’s success. “[We] have a strategy and the resources in place to accomplish the goal of a stable and growing and independent Afghanistan able to provide for its own security,” Biden said. The vice president reiterated the July 2011 drawdown of troops—a deadline that Biden had demanded—but assured Karzai that “we are not leaving, if you don’t want us to leave.”

(In his interview published in the Washington Post, General David Petraeus—who took over command of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan in June 2010—criticized both the inadequate surge level and the brief timetable. “We hoped for an extended surge, and we also had not discussed the speed of the drawdown, so I hoped for a slow one,” Petraeus said. He claimed Obama “sprung” the deadline on top commanders before approving the surge, which created other problems. “What drove spending was the need to solidify gains as quickly as we could, knowing that we had a tight drawdown timeline. . . . And we wound up spending faster than we would have if we felt we had forces longer than we did.”)

$1 Trillion and Counting

But the surge didn’t work. It’s hard to say whether McChrystal’s plan for more troops and a lengthier timeline would have fared better, but one thing appears certain: Joe Biden’s half-measure guided by a politically-motivated deadline undoubtedly would have failed just as badly, if not worse, as Obama’s plan did. Further, Biden’s calculation was the baseline for Obama’s compromise plan as the president met his military chiefs and his vice president in the middle.

And Obama stuck with Biden’s deadline; troop levels began to drop drastically in late 2011: Obama had to halt plans to completely withdraw as the Taliban gained ground toward the end of Obama’s presidency.

An unidentified national security advisor for Obama confirmed the team’s poor planning in his interview with the special inspector general for Afghanistan: “We did a very good job of pushing information from the field up to the principals. Where we fell short is pushing decisions back down to the field. I’ll always remember reading [Bob] Woodward’s book [Obama’s Wars] . . . and turning to the back of the book where there was a copy of the strategy. and slapping my forehead, saying ‘Oh, that was the strategy?!’”

The war, sadly, rages on. U.S. casualties hit their highest level last year since 2014. Civilian deaths are rising, too. Corruption is rampant and the opiate industry is thriving. Most Americans—including veterans—now consider the war a mistake. The taxpayers’ tab is $1 trillion and climbing.

The public is learning more from the people closest to the decision-makers about what a debacle the whole operation has been from the start. (Take a moment and watch this clip from John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, who testified before Congress last week.)

No presidential team has led the war effort longer than Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Three-quarters of the 2,351 American fatalities in Afghanistan happened on Obama’s watch. And while Trump faces condemnation for his alleged rude comments to top commanders about the war, Biden is allowed to misrepresent his past position and escape the comeuppance he deserves.

It’s easy for him now to claim that he would order troops home if he’s elected president. But first, Biden needs to account for the disaster that he and his BFF created—and left for Donald Trump to clean up.

Afghanistan Papers • Elections

Mendacity, Hubris, and the Tragedy of Afghanistan

The very same collection of intelligence, national security, military, diplomatic, and political experts rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of Trump’s ouster is responsible for mismanaging our longest war, a debacle that continues to cost American lives.

A cynic might start to suspect that the current impeachment fervor roiling Capitol Hill is nothing more than a ruse by Washington’s aristocracy to camouflage revelations about their own incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power over the past few decades.

Could it be, a cynic might wonder, that all the accusations leveled against President Trump merely are projections to deflect from the bad behavior of Beltway royalty?

After all, Trump lies, we are told. Trump is clueless when it comes to the delicate affairs of war and diplomacy, we are warned. His recklessness jeopardizes national security and World War III, we are cautioned, is just around the corner.

State Department snobs, supremely confident in their own skills and irreplaceable value to the nation, demeaned the president during the House’s impeachment inquiry. Former and current inhabitants of the intelligence community are key accomplices in the attempt to oust Trump from the White House. Opinion columns authored by former national security officials routinely describe the president as the world’s biggest threat to world peace. (More on that next week.)

And they ease any fears about the president’s instinctive approach to foreign relations with promises that these very stable geniuses on both sides of the aisle will be back in business once Donald Trump vacates the Oval Office.

But, thanks to an ongoing exposé in the Washington Post documenting the government’s treacherous mishandling of the war in Afghanistan, the American public is learning that it is Washington’s self-important ruling class—not Donald Trump—that has lied to us for nearly two decades about what has been happening in that failed and deadly conflict.

The very same collection of intelligence, national security, military, diplomatic, and political experts rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of Trump’s ouster, either by impeachment or defeat this November, is responsible for mismanaging our longest war, a debacle by any measure that continues to cost American lives.

It is they, not Donald Trump, who fudged the numbers. They, not Donald Trump, manipulated internal reporting and politicized field intelligence to mislead the public. They, not Donald Trump, conceived failed strategies borne of ignorance, careerism, and ineptitude. They, not Donald Trump, posed the gravest threat to national security and a peaceful global order.

They, not Donald Trump, perpetuated a war that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of American soldiers, wounded and disfigured tens of thousands more, and killed untold numbers of Afghans.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue,” John Sopko told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during his explosive testimony this week. Sopko is the special inspector general tasked with oversight of the nation’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. He minced no words. “Mendacity and hubris” have infected our government’s handling of the war, he said.

Sopko heads SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Congress created the agency in 2008 amid reports of widespread corruption in that country as the war escalated.

SIGAR’s mission is to account for the more than $130 billion in U.S. aid being spent to rebuild Afghanistan; the agency has produced nearly 600 reports analyzing the U.S. government’s efforts to move Afghanistan out of the stone age and develop an educational, financial, healthcare, and security infrastructure consistent with the 21st Century.

Not that anyone in Washington or the media paid attention to SIGAR’s work.

In 2014, SIGAR launched a separate project called Lessons Learned after federal agencies, including the State and Defense departments, failed to supply truthful answers about the war’s status.

“While honesty and transparency are always important, when government agencies overstate the positive and overlook flaws in their methodologies or accountability mechanisms, it has real public policy implications,” Sopko told the committee. “The American people and their elected representatives eventually start asking why, if things are going so well, are we still there? Why do we continue to spend so much money? As the old saying goes, success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. Nowhere is this more true than in Afghanistan, where success is fleeting and failure is common.”

The agency conducted hundreds of interviews with U.S. civil servants, allied forces, and Afghan government officials. What they found should enrage every American, particularly the families of those who have suffered the most.

“The problem is there’s a disincentive, really, to tell the truth,” a clearly frustrated Sopko told Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.). “We have created an incentive to almost require . . . people to lie. You create, from the bottom up, an incentive . . . to show success. That gets reported up the chain.”

Then this: “Before you know it, the president is talking about a success that doesn’t exist.”

Sopko warned House members they also have been misled and don’t have the information necessary to decide what to do next in Afghanistan.

“A lot of the facts you need, you’re not being given,” he testified. “They are over-classified or they’re not being given or they’re just ignored. It’s lying by omission. Turns out all the bad news has been classified over the past few years.” (One congressman responded with, “Wow.”)

Sopko described how U.S. agencies relied on sketchy reporting from Afghanistan to tout progress in education and healthcare. In one example, the U.S. Agency for International Development claimed life expectancy in Afghanistan had increased by 22 years since the 2001 invasion; in reality, it was less than a third of that number. Projections about the number of girls enrolled in school were way overinflated. Performance measures put in place years ago had disappeared. Data was either flawed, massaged, or nonexistent.

There is no strategy, Sopko explained, to combat the country’s dominant opiate industry despite the United States spending more than $9 billion to curtail Afghanistan’s production of the deadly poppy crop.

“In dozens of interviews . . . key players in the anti-narcotics campaign acknowledged that none of the measures have worked and that, in many cases, they have made things worse,” wrote Post reporter Craig Whitlock, the main author of the paper’s Afghanistan series.

But SIGAR’s work so far has fallen on deaf ears. Its Lesson Learned project has made 120 recommendations to Congress and the executive branch; only 13, Sopko reported, have been implemented.

This is one more shameful example of why the Democrats’ impeachment crusade is so dangerous. While Democratic lawmakers continue to obsess with how to remove Trump from office, and Republicans fight back, the country’s legitimate problems are ignored. As the news media howls about a few hundred million dollars in delayed U.S. aid to Ukraine, tens of billions are wasted each year on useless plans to build a “little America,” as Sopko called it, in Afghanistan. America’s running receipt in Afghanistan is around $1 trillion.

But the country is a disaster; civilian deaths are at record numbers—23 Americans were killed in 2019, the highest number since 2014. Two soldiers have already been killed this year by a roadside bomb. The Taliban is back in charge. Afghanistan is regressing, not progressing.

And as the White House, too, remains distracted by impeachment, there is little reason to hope the president will be successful in ending our failed adventure in Afghanistan. Even plans to remove a few thousand troops from Syria were met with handwringing on both sides of the aisle.

Americans should indeed be concerned about political leaders who lie and hide the truth in order to protect themselves. We should hold to account those in power who abuse their authority and refuse accountability. We should be outraged about efforts to exploit foreign governments for political gain.

All of that applies not to a brief phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine but to the ongoing tragedy that is the war in Afghanistan. So far, the ruling class’s diversionary tactics are working. At some point, we can hope, a reckoning will begin and the very people now asking all the questions about Trump’s conduct will be forced to answer some questions themselves.

A cynic can dream.

Afghanistan Papers • Elections

Unequal Fates: A Real Obama Era Whistleblower vs. the Trump ‘Whistleblower’

As the Trump impeachment drama continues to unfold on Capitol Hill, the so-called whistleblower in that case enjoys hero-martyr status on the Left and in the news media. Lt. General Michael Flynn has enjoyed no such treatment.

The whistleblower, speaking to internal investigators, pulled no punches in his assessment of the government’s mishandling of the war in Afghanistan.

“As intelligence makes its way up higher, it gets consolidated and really watered down, it gets politicized,” he explained. “It gets politicized because once policymakers get their hands on it . . . they put their twist on it. The policy decisions and the operational decisions, I don’t think matched what the intelligence was saying.”

The 33-year decorated Army officer—with a lengthy career in military intelligence and service in both Afghanistan and Iraq—blasted the “rosy” scenarios promoted by top officials, including the White House, that contradicted what was actually happening on the ground.

“This sense that we are doing great permeates all the way up to the top,” he continued. “As a senior intel officer for many years, my assessments were not good. [I] said it was not at all going well. Never. We are basically fighting the wrong way. We are participating in conflict, we are not really here to win.”

The three-star general described rampant corruption that involved the allied coalition and American officials, including the U.S. embassy in Kabul; a narcotics racket that was “the worst it has ever been”; and a rotating U.S. command structure that refused to concede failure.

But the whistleblower reserved his harshest criticism for the government’s intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the agency he left the year before.

“What I learned was that the CIA was not sharing all of their information . . . the CIA has operational cables that don’t make it into intelligence reporting, which is incredibly irresponsible,” he told the interviewer. “I wanted to know about that disconnect.”

When he confronted an unidentified CIA official, the whistleblower was brushed off. “This is where the intelligence leadership is irresponsible for not sharing intelligence in and among themselves. There is a huge, huge political [bias] in this. The reason is that there is a political bias and the reason is there is a lack of courage in senior government officials to tell the truth.”

This whistleblower, however, is not some anonymous partisan operative now cheered by the Left and the media as a patriot. He is not the unnamed driving force to take down the president of the United States.

The person I just described is Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor who faces jail time for his plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Flynn’s stunning interview is among the hundreds of documents contained in the Washington Post’s recent exposé on the war in Afghanistan. The six-part series, authored by Craig Whitlock, is an infuriating account of how our top military, national security, and political leaders lied to us about the disastrous conflict that has taken the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. troops, wounded more than 20,000, and cost $1 trillion and counting. Last year was the deadliest since 2014; 23 American service members were killed in 2019. Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb earlier this month.

Nearly three-quarters of the total U.S. casualties in Afghanistan occurred on Barack Obama’s watch.

Whitlock’s series is the result of a lawsuit the Post filed against SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The agency, established by Congress in 2008, oversees a number of projects related to the ongoing war.

One program is called “Lessons Learned.” According to SIGAR’s website, “The goal of the program is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of current and future reconstruction efforts through comprehensive, evidence-based analysis of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan since 2001.”

The interviews and documents produced by “Lessons Learned” comprise the trove of material that Whitlock cites throughout his investigation. Officials from three administrations, the Afghan government, and coalition forces participated in the project.

“The Lessons Learned interviews contradict years of public statements by presidents, generals and diplomats,” Whitlock wrote. “The interviews make clear that officials issued rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hid unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. Several of those interviewed described explicit efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public and a culture of willful ignorance, where bad news and critiques were unwelcome.”

That broad assessment is confirmed by Flynn’s November 2015 interview. In fact, the Post’s effort to obtain SIGAR’s materials was prompted by Flynn’s involvement in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Flynn had been forced out as Barack Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after clashing with his then-boss, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Flynn riled the Obama White House with his public criticism of how poorly the intelligence community approached the Afghan war.

After he left the administration in 2014, Flynn became an enemy of Obama loyalists. Flynn was the first unwitting victim in the Russian collusion scheme, targeted by the same informant, Stefan Halper, who made contact with Trump campaign associates in 2016.

He joined Team Trump in early 2016 and was rumored as Trump’s running mate. During his appearance at the Republican National Convention, Flynn said Hillary Clinton jeopardized national security by using a private email server when she was secretary of state. The comment led to chants of “lock her up!” by conventioneers.

“If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today,” Flynn roared from the convention stage on July 18, 2016.

Two weeks later, Barack Obama’s FBI, led by James Comey, opened up an investigation into Flynn for colluding with the Russians to interfere in the presidential election.

In August 2016, the Post, acting on a “tip” about Flynn’s unpublished interview, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to SIGAR asking for the transcript. The agency refused.

The Post continued to fight SIGAR as Flynn was appointed then removed as Trump’s first national security advisor amid the disclosure of Flynn’s classified conversations with the Russian ambassador, details of which had been illegally leaked then published—ironically—by the Washington Post in early 2017. (In one court filing, Flynn’s lawyer accused Clapper of telling a Post reporter to “take the kill shot” on Flynn in January 2017.)

But when the Post finally received Flynn’s interview in December 2017, the paper did not publish the transcript. I asked why and Whitlock replied in an email: “The Post‘s editors wanted to publish all the interviews at the same time in order to provide a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the war in Afghanistan,” Whitlock told me. “If SIGAR had acted more quickly, we would have published all of the Afghanistan Papers much earlier.”

Something else happened in December 2017: Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to federal investigators after Comey’s FBI agents ambushed him in the White House a few days after Trump took office. One can only wonder what the public case against Flynn would have looked like had the Post published his harsh assessment of the same people—Clapper, Obama, and CIA Director John Brennan—attempting to sabotage the decorated Army veteran. (In their first meeting, Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn. Now we know why.)

As the Trump impeachment drama continues to slowly unfold on Capitol Hill, the “whistleblower” in that case enjoys hero-martyr status on the Left and in the news media. No reporter is trying to track him down and force him to answer questions about his political ties; on the contrary, anyone who mentions the name of the suspected “whistleblower” is condemned and falsely accused of breaking the law.

Flynn has enjoyed no such treatment. He awaits sentencing from a federal judge, more than two years after his plea agreement and despite proven corruption in the FBI’s case against the Trump campaign.

Further, considering the revelations in Whitlock’s series (American Greatness will continue to cover it, by the way), it turns out Flynn was right. His first-hand account, unlike the hearsay accusations made by the Ukrainegate “whistleblower,” shows legitimate threats to national security, political decisions by U.S. leaders that involve another country, and the self-serving interests of a presidential administration at the expense of the public good.

“From ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn said. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why do I feel like we are losing?”

Those are the informed revelations of a true, and brave, whistleblower.