The war in Afghanistan, as it currently stands, began when I was two years old. In October of 2001, a month after 9/11, the United States began bombing Afghanistan, targeting Osama bin Laden’s fighters as well as the Taliban. 10 years later, Osama bin Laden was killed. Now it is 2018, 17 years since the war began. The United States has spent billions of dollars ($120.8 billion, to be exact) on reconstruction since 2002, not to mention that in 2017, the conflict total was estimated at around $2 trillion. It is the longest active war in the United States history that continues to cost American and Afghan people their lives in tremendous amounts. The current administration continues to send more and more troops to fight, as well as increase airstrikes.
With this current administration, I have grown more than skeptical to what we’re really “accomplishing” in Afghanistan. And recently, it seems, our government is not interested in providing any clarity on the war for which our taxes are funding and our people are fighting.
Beginning in 2008, Congress commissioned the Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Its missions are stated as “1. Promote efficiency and effectiveness of reconstruction programs, and 2. Detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.” SIGAR submits a quarterly report to Congress, which “summarizes all of SIGAR's audits and investigative activities…provides an overview of reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and includes a detailed statement of all obligations, expenditures, and revenues associated with reconstruction.” The information in the reports, sans anything classified, is available to the American people. It serves as a way to see what money is doing in Afghanistan and has for 10 years.
Yet, recently, some crucial information that establishes the state of the war has been blocked from the eye of the American taxpayer. In the words of the 38th SIGAR report,
“This quarter, the Department of Defense (DOD) instructed SIGAR not to release to the public data on the number of districts, and the population living in them, controlled or influenced by the Afghan government or by the insurgents, or contested by both…DOD has determined that although the most recent numbers are unclassified, they are not releasable to the public. This development is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked 'unclassified' to the American taxpayer.”
For the entire SIGAR report, click here.
This fact, released in a story by NPR, has sparked fury in me as to the little amount of information seen by the American public on what is going on in Afghanistan. It seems our current administration is attempting to keep us in the dark.
So why would the government choose to omit information from this report? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that since SIGAR began reporting on district-control, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the government continues to fall, yet the U.S. government continues to commit more troops.
In the last quarterly report that included information on district control, it was stated that “approximately 59.7% of the country’s 407 districts are under Afghan government control or influence as of May 15, 2017, the same as last quarter, but a six-point decline from the same period last year” and “11.1% of the country’s total districts are still under insurgent control or influence, more than a two-percentage-point increase from the same period in 2016.” Therefore, the trends show that Afghan and American forces have lost ground over a year-long period. Now we have no way of knowing what percentage is controlled by insurgents. But we do know that we are pouring more people into the conflict. The DOD has announced increasing the presence in Afghanistan to roughly 15,000 personnel, as stated in the 38th quarterly report.
Is this our generation’s Pentagon Papers? The recently released movie "The Post" follows the journalists and government workers who worked to publish the papers in the Washington Post, revealing insightful information to the American public that we could never win the Vietnam war. Perhaps this movie is more current than it appears.
As someone who comes from a family who has a rich history of serving in the U.S. military (my Opa in Vietnam), I support and am thankful every day for the people who do serve. And I want to ensure that they are fighting to protect our nation and that there is transparency in what they are being sent to do. Hiding information does not support our troops. And this administration — the one who claims to support the troops — continues to send more of them over to fight a war we aren’t winning, that has already injured and killed so many, and is now hiding information about the status of this war. That is not a way to show support; instead, it's just a way of saying 'we will not admit defeat.'Asking the question why we are still in Afghanistan is long overdue. I hope that more and more American citizens take time to ask this question of our government, because the secrecy they have demonstrated should be alarming at the least.
Enough is enough.