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U.S. pushed Afghanistan war to the public despite persistent internal doubts, Washington Post investigation reveals

U.S. officials have doubted the war in Afghanistan since its very beginning.

Just six months after the longest war in American history began, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tellingly wrote in a memo that "we are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless" the U.S. ensured there was "stability ... necessary for us to leave." And for the 18 years since, U.S. officials have been privately relaying the same concerns while publicly touting "progress," documents and interviews obtained and published by The Washington Post reveal.

Rumsfeld wrote an estimated 59,000 memos he called "snowflakes" during his tenure, but most of them remained private until now. The Post had filed a lawsuit against the National Security Archive and has since obtained more of those snowflakes, including one from 2003 where Rumsfeld complained that he had "no visibility into who the bad guys are."

In interviews with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction also obtained and published by the Post, U.S. officials continually said the same thing: "We didn't know what we were doing," said Army Gen. Douglas Lute, who was the White House's Afghan war czar under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Retired Navy SEAL and Bush and Obama staffer Jeffrey Eggers similarly suggested Osama bin Laden would be "probably laughing in his watery grave considering" the $1 trillion spent on the ongoing 18-year war.

"If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction ... 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this is all in vain?" Lute also questioned in his government interview. That's a reference to the 2,300 U.S. military personnel killed in the ongoing 18-year war, not to mention the estimated 64,124 Afghan security forces and 43,074 Afghan civilians who have been killed.

Find all the "Afghanistan Papers" at The Washington Post.