Craig Whitlock

Cindy Seip

The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War (Simon & Schuster) by Craig Whitlock, an investigative reporter for The Washington Post, is a timely account of how a war launched in 2001 with straightforward, clear goals and near-unanimous public support devolved – through ignorance, deceit, and corruption – into a colossal failure. Based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who played a direct role in the war, from White House and Pentagon leaders to soldiers and aid workers on the front lines, Whitlock reveals how the U.S. government’s strategies were a mess, nation-building was a failure, and drugs and corruption had a stranglehold on our allies in the Afghan government. But no administration wants to admit defeat, so presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump continued sending troops and saying they were making progress, even though they knew there was no realistic prospect for an outright victory. Tom Bowman, NPR’s Pentagon correspondent, called the book “a searing indictment of the deceit, blunders, and hubris of senior military and civilian officials, with the same tragic echoes of the Vietnam conflict. The American dead, wounded, and their families deserved wiser and more honorable leaders.”