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The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War By Craig Whitlock


"We were trying to get a single coherent long term approach a proper strategy but instead we got a lot of tactics. There was no coherent long-term strategy. This is a long process and the US had longer tours but the force rotations still changed the strategy and forced everything to be shmt-term." Gen. David Richards interview, September 26, 2017, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Afghan Papers Page 4


"Let me approach this from two directions. The first question of did we know what we were doing? The second is what was wrong with how we did it? The first question of did we know what we were doing - I think the answer is no." Ambassador Richard Boucher interview, October 15, 2015, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Afghan War Papers Retired U.S. diplomat. Assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, 2006-2009 Page 1


"After coordinating Afghanistan strategy at the National Security Council from 2007–2013, Douglas Lute told SIGAR, We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing. . . . We’re going to do something in Afghanistan with $10 billion? Haiti is a small country in our own backyard with no extremist insurgency and we can’t develop it. And we expect to develop Afghanistan with $10 billion? . . . What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. . . . It’s really much worse than you think. There [was] a fundamental gap of understanding on the

front end, overstated objectives, an overreliance on the military, and a lack of understanding of the resources necessary." What We Need To Learn: lessons From Twenty Years Of Afghanistan Reconstruction August 2021 SIGAR Page 15 Douglas Lute, SIGAR interview, February 20, 2015


"I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan or Iraq. I read all the intel from the community and it sounds as though we know a great deal but in fact, when you push at it, you find out we haven't got anything that is actionable. We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Steven Cambone, September 8, 2003, National Security Archive, George Washington University


"It didn’t dawn on me when I had the responsibility to talk about Afghanistan and about Iraq that I needed to be saying to the American people that this isn’t about months and years, this is about decades. Not about decades of military operations but about being here for decades, about having a military presence for decades that will allow the governments to grow and to take on their own responsibilities and then for us to slowly take our hands off the bicycle seat, so to speak. I don’t mean that pejoratively, I just mean it to be able to be supportive. Because I didn’t do that, because to my knowledge President Bush didn’t do that, the American people I think had a vision of quick in and quick out" Gen. Peter Pace interview, January 19, 2016, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia


"I may be impatient. In fact I know I'm a bit impatient. But the fact that Iran and Russia have plans for Afghanistan and we don't concerns me. I keep getting an answer that "the Deputies are working on it." Well I can't believe that it takes that many months to figure it out…We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.” “Help!” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Dick Myers and Gen. Pete Pace, April 17, 2002


"Please see me about having a weekly meeting on Afghanistan. I am getting concerned that it is drifting" Donald Rumsfeld memo to Larry Di Rita and Col. Steven Bucci, March 28, 2002


"If there was ever a notion of mission creep it is Afghanistan. We went from saying we will get rid of al-Qaeda so they can't threaten us anymore to saying we are going to end the Taliban. [Then we said] that we will get all of the groups the Taliban works with. [Then further to having] our exit strategy be a stable government in Afghanistan. Once you start saying

that and you start getting into stable government, democratic elections, making sure the Supreme Court functions properly, anti-corruption authority, and a women's ministry that looks at women's rights, new educational curriculum, transitional justice. You are trying to build systematic government a Ia Washington, DC, which is not the best example but that is the one we have in our hands, in a country that doesn't operate that way." Richard Boucher interview, October 15, 2015, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Page 1-2, Retired U.S. diplomat. Assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, 2006-2009.


"Rumsfeld said our assumption was that we were going to use a small U.S. force in Afghanistan because we wanted to avoid the big footprint that the Soviets had had. We didn't want to trigger a xenophobic reaction by the Afghans. The Soviets put 300,000 guys there and failed. We didn't want to re-create that error. So we had a light footprint strategy, but the assumption was that the Northern Alliance guys were going to fight. At one point Rumsfeld turned to me and Pete Pace and said, "We need to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan. Are we doing the right thing? I want you to do a new strategic analysis," essentially a new strategy." Douglas Feith interview, March 22–23, 2012, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center University of Virginia Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for United States president George W. Bush


"I think that what was taking place in the earlier phases was exactly as planned. The conditions were being set for what needed to be done… It looked like nothing was happening. Indeed, it looked like we were in a—all together now!—quagmire.” NOVEMBER 27, 2001 U.S. Central Command Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks spoke to reporters about the progress of military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan - CSPAN Min 44


"This is a systemic problem of our government. We can't think beyond the next election. When we went to Afghanistan everybody was talking about a year or two, and I said to them that we would be lucky if we were out of here in 20 years." U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, 2002-2003 Robert Finn interview, October 22, 2015, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Page 9


"I then met alone with the President for about three minutes and talked to him about the Wednesday NSC meeting, where I had been told he wanted to meet with Gen. McNeill and Gen. Franks. He said, "Who is General McNeill?" I said he is the general in charge of Afghanistan. He said, "Well, I don't need to meet with him." I said that General Franks, General Myers and I suggest that General Franks meet on SVTC. He said, "Fine. That's the way to do it. I just kind of want to stay in touch" Office of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld to [redacted], Subject: “Meetings with President,” October 21, 2002, 5:50 p.m


"Time is of essence here. The situation we're in now is that Al Qaeda have licked their wounds and are regrouping in the Southeast, with the connivance of a few disgruntled junior warlords and the double-dealing Pakistanis. The shooting match is still very much on. Along the border provinces you can't kick a stone over without Bad Guys swarming out like ants and snakes and scorpions" Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Coalition Coordination Cell, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Roger Pardo-Maurer, email, “Greetings from scenic Kandahar,” August 15, 2002 Page 10


"The reality is that on 9/11 we didn’t know jack shit about al-Qaeda. That’s the reason a lot of this stuff happened and the interrogations and everything else, because we didn’t know anything. If we’d had a great database and knew exactly what al-Qaeda was all about, what their capabilities were and stuff like that, some of these measures wouldn’t have been necessary. But the fact is that we’d just been attacked by a group we didn’t know anything about." Robert Gates interview, July 9, 2013, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia


"the complexities will take a long time to unravel. Our entire post-9/11 response is all subject to question because of this increasing complexity. Why did we make the Taliban the enemy when we were attacked by Al Qaeda? Why did we want to defeat the Taliban? Why did we think it was necessary to build a hyper-function state to forgo the return of the Taliban? In fairness the people I know in government believed we were guilty of nation-building… Most people, even in Europe offer criticism and those we should take seriously but still they believe that some response [to the attacks on 9/11] was warranted. They also say that the U.S. response exceeded what was necessary. This includes the over-aggregation of the enemy to include the Taliban as part of our response to al Qaeda. Why, if we were focused on al Qaeda, were we talking about the Taliban? Why were we talking about the Taliban all the time instead of focusing our strategy on al Qaeda" Jeffrey Eggers, Lessons Learned interview, 8/25/2015 Retired Navy SEAL. Former National Security Council staffer during the Bush and Obama administrations. Former senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Page 2,4


"Our mission was focused on capturing and killing what were called anti-coalition militia (ACM). There was a lot of crime. It was hard to determine if folks were actually no-joke Taliban or just criminals. That’s where a lot of the problems were. We had to figure out who the bad guys were, whether they were in the scope of our mission and who we were there to target versus just being criminals and thugs. Sometimes, though, they’re tied together. It was a very complex environment and was difficult at times to determine who the enemy was." Maj. Stuart Farris interview, December 6, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 7, Major Stuart Farris deployed to Afghanistan in April 2003 as “the assistant to the assistant S3” in 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group


"At any given moment, you could find yourself in the middle of the wild, wild west. Guys would say that the Taliban were shooting at us. Well, how the hell do you know it’s the Taliban? It could just be some pissed off local, for all you know. That’s how wild the outer land is." Maj. Thomas Clinton interview, March 12, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas - U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, 2001–2009 Anthology and Annotated Bibliography U.S. Marines in the Global War on Terrorism Page 113


"In the south, I think we had some Taliban there, but the biggest threat, I believe, were—they were certainly armed groups. I’m not sure they were Taliban. You know, that’s kind of the conclusion we came to. I think they were basically antigovernment bands, if you will, that lived in some of the smaller towns and villages in the south. I don’t think there was a huge Taliban presence. But, you know, very clearly, these guys in the south didn’t want us in there because we represented the extension of the reach of the central government. Most of the operations we did in there were with the Afghan National Army [ANA]. These people had spent their whole lives, I think, opposing the central government and protecting their turf" Maj. Gen. Eric Olson interview, July 23, 2007, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C. - Enduring Voices: Oral Histories of the U.S. Army Experience in Afghanistan, 2003–2005 Page 250


“Right. Helmand, Oruzgan, Northern Kandahar,” and areas where at that time it really wasn’t so much about the Taliban. It was about these guys I was mentioning before, the armed groups like hillbillies. My theory is why fight these guys? Why not just fix the rest of the country, or at least show improvement, and persuade them to come out of hills and put down their arms?" Maj. Gen. Eric Olson interview, July 23, 2007, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C. -Enduring Voices: Oral Histories of the U.S. Army Experience in Afghanistan, 2003–2005 Page 260 (Quote not in book)


"Trying to help the ODA understand the local environment. At first they thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and the bad guys live. It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first they just kept asking, "But who are the bad guys, where are they?" Special Forces combat adviser interview, December 15, 2017, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR. Name redacted by SIGAR Page 1


``We needed U.S. soldiers on the ground!'' he wrote. ``I'd sent my request for 800 U.S. Army Rangers and was still waiting for a response. I repeated to anyone at headquarters who would listen: We need Rangers now! The opportunity to get bin Laden and his men is slipping away!!'' Tora Bora Revisited,” Report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, November 30, 2009. Quote from a senior CIA paramilitary commander in Afghanistan at the time Gary Berntsen, from his book Jawbreaker


“Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp” Tommy Franks, “War of Words,” The New York Times, October 19, 2004


“A major mistake we made was treating the Taliban the same as al-Qaeda. Key Taliban leaders were interested in giving the new system a chance, but we didn’t give them a chance.” Barnett Rubin, Lessons Learned interview, 8/27/2015 Academic expert on Afghanistan and senior adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009-2013 Page 4


"One of the unfortunate errors that took place after 9/11 was in our eagerness to get revenge we violated the Afghan way of war. That is when one side wins, the other side puts down their arms and reconciles with the side that won. And this is what the Taliban wanted to do… Our insistence on hunting them down as if they were all criminals, rather than just adversaries who had lost, was what provoked the rise of the insurgency more than anything else.” Todd Greentree interview, May 13, 2014, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. Army University Press, Official Army Website (Not Primary Source References the book)


"I think there was a missed opportunity in the subsequent months when a number of Taliban leaders and influential figures either did surrender or offered to surrender including, according to one account, Mullah Omar himself. This was rebuffed at the behest of the United States and, I assume, of the Pentagon since the issue was never brought to my attention and stayed. Those who did come over were sent off to prison in Guantanamo or Boqueron for years at a time… I have to say that I think at least I shared a general assumption which was that the Taliban had been so quickly and rapidly overthrown that it was likely that it was -- that it had been heavily discredited and was unlikely to make a come back." James Dobbins, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016 Former U.S. diplomat. U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2013-2014 Page 24,25 Audio Available Min 29:30


"like Ambassador Dobbins has written about this, that maybe we were not agile enough or wise enough to reach out to the Taliban early on, that we thought they were defeated and that they needed to be brought to justice, rather than that they should be accommodated or some reconciliation be done." Zalmay Khalilzad, Lessons Learned interview, 12/7/2016 U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation since 2018. U.S ambassador to Afghanistan, 2003-2005. Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations Page 27


"Absolute devastation. It seemed to me that coming into the city, primarily for the first time, I used the image often, reminded me of pictures of Berlin in 1945, and Kabul airport was closed at the time. You had to come in from Bagram, and driving through mile after mile of basically lifeless lug, having to forge, you know, a river because the bridge was out. It was a very sobering experience, that there was almost literally nothing there, and that of course, was reinforced by my early meetings with KARZI {phonetic} who arrived only a couple of weeks before I did, that here was a leader of interim authority, who had no real authority and nothing to work with, no military, no police, no civil service, no functioning society. So, the enormity of the task kind of hit me significantly right at the outset." Ryan Crocker, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016 Retired U.S. diplomat. U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011-2012, and acting ambassador, 2002. U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007 Page 9


"As of December 31, 2020, the United States had appropriated approximately $143.27 billion for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since FY 2002." “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” January 30, 2021


"I mean, the writing is on the wall now. We spent so much money and there is so little to show for it. I just can't imagine how -- what is a counterfactual if we had spent no money? I don't know. Maybe it would be worse. Probably it would be worse but how much worse?" Michael Callen, Lessons Learned interview, 10/22/2015 Economist and specialist on the Afghan public sector Page 40 Audio Available


"Rumsfeldian (phonetic) neo-realist that we're not going to have a phase four because we don't want to be involved. Our job is about killing bad guys, so we will have killed the bad guys, who cares what happens next. That's their problem. And if in a decade and a half, we have to go in and kill more bad guys, we can do that too, but we're not going to get involved in nation building" Ryan Crocker, Lessons Learned interview, 12/1/2016 Retired U.S. diplomat. U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011-2012, and acting ambassador, 2002. U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007 Page 10-11 Audio Available Min 12:30


"there was no way the State Department was going to get the Defense Department or Don Rumsfeld to do what it wanted. It was hard enough for the White House to do that and virtually impossible for the State Department." James Dobbins, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016



"After the fall of the Taliban, it was thought that we needed a president right away, but that was wrong. Karzi was put on by the US" German official, Lessons Learned interview, 2/2/2015 Page 1


“Why did we create centralized government in a place that has never had one?... You’d think they’ve never worked overseas” USAID official, Lessons Learned interview, 10/18/2016 Page 2


"In Afghanistan our policy was to create a strong central government which was idiotic because Afghanistan does not have a history of a strong central government… The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years. which we didn't have." Former State Department official, Lessons Learned interview, 7/10/2015 Page 4


"When we went to Bosnia and Kosovo and were trying to teach democracy, elections and freedom, we started at the grass roots level. We had elections for district chiefs and only after that did we work our way up to the regional and national elections. We did it the exact opposite in Afghanistan, though. We had them voting for the president first – and most of these people didn’t even know what it meant to vote. Yeah, they had the purple ink on their fingers. I think it’s very challenging in the rural environment. I remember one time we had a unit on patrol and people asked, “What are the Russians doing back here?” These people didn’t even know the Americans had been there for a couple years. You’re talking about real isolation in some of the more rural areas. There are no cars, phones or TVs.


JM: I heard from another guy who said they encountered people who didn’t even know they were in Afghanistan.


DP: I [was] never asked that question but it wouldn’t surprise me. The British drew the border in the east between Pakistan and Afghanistan on a map, but the tribal guys didn’t agree with it so they flipped back and forth either way. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear someone say that." Col. David Paschal interview, July 18, 2006, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 9


"I would say, first of all, that they have a very long history of being loyal to their family and their tribe, so the guy sitting out in Chak Charan couldn’t really care less who President Hamid Karzai is and the fact that he’s in charge of Kabul. It reminds me of a Monty Python movie where the king goes riding by some peasant in the dirt and the king rides up and says, “I’m the king,” and the peasant turns around and says, “What’s a king?” Lt. Col. Todd Guggisberg interview, July 17, 2006, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Page 12-13


"We used to laugh during OEF IV because Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had traveled to Bagram Airbase and said, “We‟ve begun Phase IV operations.” When we were there as a division staff, we thought it was more like 3.5, because there was still plenty of fighting going on… Quite frankly, we were just going around killing people. We‟d fly in, do a mission for a few weeks, then we‟d fly out – and of course the Taliban would just flow right back in" Lt. Col. Mark Schmidt interview, February 10, 2009, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 6


"The major disputes were how to go to war in a way that was smart and not whether so much as if you can’t get satisfaction, when? Is ’02 too soon? Do we need to concern ourselves with Afghanistan for a while longer? For lots of reasons the Bush administration had already concluded Afghanistan was done." Philip Zelikow interview, July 28, 2010, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia


"the whole effort in Afghanistan was in a bit of a sideways drift… In September ’03, there was a tremendous, in my view, dysfunctionality in unity of command inside of Afghanistan, inside the military in Afghanistan." Lt. Gen. David Barno interview, November 21, 2006, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C Page 43,59


"Now, where I will register complaints is with the services, particularly the Army. The Army was unhelpful, to be generous, in terms of providing us with resources and capabilities and people. They clearly had Iraq on their minds, but there was no interest whatsoever in providing us with anything but the absolute minimum level of support." Lt. Gen. David Barno interview, November 21, 2006, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C Page 49


"This was really a classic counterinsurgency campaign. We began to build the structural support to execute a classic counterinsurgency campaign. We had no U.S. military doctrine whatsoever at that point in time by which to guide us. In fact, as I was searching about in my own memory for things I knew about counterinsurgency, I actually took to Afghanistan three West Point textbooks that I had as a cadet, dated 1974, Department of History, “Counter-Revolutionary Warfare,” and they were up on my bookshelf in the embassy in Kabul, because we really had nothing in the way of doctrine. None of us really had much of any training on the counterinsurgency business, so we were kind of scraping on how to think about this" Lt. Gen. David Barno interview, November 21, 2006, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C Page 18


"Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?... It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog,” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace and Doug Feith, October 16, 2003 Page 1,2


"There was an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about what this new ambassador was going to do. It was rather visionary. I later saw some emails which convinced me that he was not the author of the pieces coming out of Kabul. About Christmas time, there was an article in The Washington Post. Dick McGraw, who headed the P.R. staff in the ARG. He had worked for Rumsfeld in private industry and later became the deputy spokesperson for the Pentagon. I remember seeing McGraw in the cafeteria and mentioning that I thought the Post was pretty good. He said that he was surprised it had come out as well as it did since about 20 people had a hand in writing it. It put the most positive spin possible on what was going on in Afghanistan. I began to wonder why the American taxpayers should be paying the salary and associated costs of so many people in Kabul whose sole job was to write glowing press releases that would make the operation look good in the American media. Was that a necessary expense?" Thomas Hutson interview, April 23, 2004, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Page 108


"There was progress, but of course I don't think their status will ever reach the levels that we consider desirable..They have their own culture. We should be prepared to make the long term commitment. The day I left, a journalist was talking to my British commander and me; he wondered how long a commitment might be necessary. We answered almost simultaneously; the colonel said “40 years” and I said “Check with my grandson.” We thought it would take that long before anyone could judge whether our intervention in Afghanistan would have any impact." Thomas Hutson interview, April 23, 2004, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Page 123 (State Department Official)


"We got the ANSF we deserve. If we started with ANSF in 2002-2006 when the Taliban was weak and disorganized, things may have been different. Instead, we went to Iraq. If we committed money deliberately and sooner, we could have a different outcome." Douglas Lute, Lessons Learned interview, 2/20/2015 White House war czar for Afghanistan, 2007-2013. Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Page 5


"We kept changing guys who were in charge of training the Afghan forces, and every time a new guy came in he changed the way that they were being trained. The one thing they all had in common was they were all trying to train a Western army instead of figuring out the strengths of the Afghans as a fighting people and then building on that." Robert Gates Oral History July 8, 2013


"There were always the jokes about the ANA that, as long as they could pull the trigger 50 times, it didn’t matter if they hit anything. As long as the bullet went in the right direction, they were good… A lot of our big push was to try and standardize things, but … you couldn’t fail basic training. There was no standard. If you missed training because it was Ramadan, it never got made up. I tried to work with the Afghans and I would say, “We missed this training. When are we going to make it up?” They’d show me on paper but I don’t think it really ever occurred." Maj. Rick Rabe interview, May 18, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 4,8


"Low, illiterate; language barriers… Example of urinals in barracks used as drinking fountains; basic hygiene lesson" U.S. military official interview, October 28, 2016, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR. Name redacted by SIGAR Page 3


"I guess the overarching theme that I’d communicate to senior leaders is that our way is not the best way always... Small caveat: we could’ve used some more cultural, I’m not going to call it sensitivity, but cultural knowledge when we developed and designed the projects for the Afghan National Army. Putting in Western-style toilets wasn’t too smart. Putting in Western-style gymnasium-type showers wasn’t very smart. We had the opportunity to correct that in future projects when we realized that the commodes were being broken because the soldiers were trying to squat on them like they usually do, or the soldiers were getting hurt as they slipped off and whacked their knee into the wall... The soldiers are used to hanging their things out to dry on lines and you explain to them that the wall heaters are a source of heat. Well, they’d hang their things over the electric heater and then the electric heater would burn up because you’re not supposed to lay a soaking wet piece of whatever on it. They’re used to washing their clothes in some standing source of water, whether that’s a lake or a river, and then twisting their garments to ring as much water out as possible. When you put up all these towel racks, they just think that’s a heavy-duty hanger for them to tie their trousers up against. As you start to do that, the towel racks get ripped off the walls. So if we would have had a little bit less hubris, thought how these guys normally live and provided a construction to that standard, then educate them on things" Maj. Kevin Lovell interview, August 24, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 16-17


"It was pretty funny, though. I was interviewing some of the soldiers, I'm talking about the privates. "Why did you join the army?" was one of my biggest questions. "It's a solid paycheck." It helped them take care of that. Some of them would say, "Because I love Afghanistan." "Really?" "Yes." Some tied it back to the money, and they were like, "Well, it's given me an opportunity to do something I've never done before." "Okay. What happens when the US leaves, will you still be in the military?" The majority, almost everyone I talked to said, "No." They were going to go back and grow opium or marijuana or something like that, because that's where the money is. That threw me for a complete loop. It was understandable, because you need to have some kind of an income to take care of your families, but the fact that they'd come out and -- they won't use the stuff, so for them it was a means of earning a living and taking care of their families. That's what it was all about, earning a living and taking care of their families." Maj. Charles Abeyawardena interview, July 26, 2012, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 14 (He interviewed soldiers in 2005-6)


"for the most part -- they're so corrupt that if you're house gets robbed and you call the police to show up. The police will show up and rob your house a second time. So, you're not really inclined to call the police to deal with any problem, because chances are they're going to hold you up for money one way or another." Maj. Del Saam interview, August 20, 2009, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 10


"if you have a problem, you don't go to the police. You go to the village elder... He makes up the rules as he goes. There's no rule of law. If he likes you, he's going to say, "Hey, this is really good." If he doesn't like you, he's going to say, "Give me some goats or sheep or we'll have you shot on site," if he thinks it's bad enough. They execute justice right there, whether it's Taliban or not is irrelevant. The village elders kind of control this stuff. The warlords control. It's brutal street justice right there and a lot of it has to do with personality. If they like you, then you're innocent. If they don't like you, then you're guilty. If you're in their tribe, you're innocent. If you're not in their tribe, then you're guilty. They can't picture, they have a hard time picturing what we're trying to do with the police forces. They don’t understand how it fits in to their culture. Americans are trying to force something on them that we understand, but that they can't visualize." Maj. Del Saam interview, August 20, 2009, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 10


"I have this great concept that your predecessor didn‟t want to have anything to do with.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “You guys need to develop a comic book like you did in Bosnia.” I said, “About what?” He replied, “I don‟t know. Just a comic book.”... We all got together the next day and decided what kind of comic book we should do. We looked at our objectives and one of them was about voting. We threw ideas around and we developed the concept of a couple of kids playing soccer, since soccer is such a big thing in Afghanistan. We took a Hazara, a Pashtun and three other kinds of nationalities in Afghanistan and had them all trying to play soccer. We then had this wise old man come in to observe what they were trying to do. We decided first that we needed to talk about how you play soccer. We had the old man come in with a rule book, which would signify the constitution. We also had the old man say something like, “Here‟s the rule book on how you play soccer, kind of like our constitution, which states all the rules that all Afghans must abide by.” We then went through the process of asking who was going to be the leader. We had all the kids saying they would be the leader and the wise old man would come in and say, “You need to vote for one person to be the leader of the soccer team.” We had them all do ballots, check the little box, and then we had one kid read off who won. We had him say, “All the ballots were for this person.” After that, the old man came in and wrapped things up on the constitution and voting. There was also a message to the parents. We had him say, “This is what your parents need to do when the elections come. They need to vote.” That was the story of our comic book." Maj. Louis Frias interview, September 16, 2008, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 5


"Afghan MP Mirwais Yasini said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country around the world."" Alastair Leithead, “Anger over ‘blasphemous balls,’ ” BBC News, August 26, 2007


"Time to Americans is very important. Time over there, though, means nothing. We’re trying to force them to do things on our time, which to them they don’t understand. A lot of them don’t have watches and can’t even tell time. We’re trying to force them to leave for a mission at a certain time and they can’t understand why. “Why do we have to leave at that time?” To them, it’s not important. Trying to get them to understand our standards was a real challenge" Maj. William Woodring interview, December 12, 2006, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 8


"There were all kinds of challenges, just understanding the whole lifestyle of the Afghans. We had a saying: “Man love Thursdays.” When you’re a newbie you have no idea what they’re talking about. It takes a while to figure it out. You’d see Afghans holding hands, you’re unsure of what’s going on and you’re afraid to ask somebody. After a while you start picking up on things… You have to accept what they do and don’t interject your personal feelings about their culture. Looking at women is forbidden. Even if a young 17-year-old stares at a woman he can be killed for that. We weren’t taught any of that, though, in any of our training. You need to understand that people might hit on you." Maj. William Woodring interview, December 12, 2006, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 8


"LL: What was your biggest challenge?


GT: Intelligence. If we were there to kill or capture remnants of the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda, then the biggest challenge was getting timely, accurate intelligence. The reports that came from higher inevitably said that they thought there was an area where guys were coming back and forth across the border. Well, guys don’t just do that. They’re funded in some way, they get equipment somehow, they have to eat. In other words, it’s a system. How are we going to attack that system? I don’t think we ever got answers to those questions and that’s simply because it was so new to us at that time." Maj. Gregory Trahan interview, February 5, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 8


"In summer of 2003, Harun traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria, where he planned to bomb the U.S. Embassy. He recruited accomplices, scouted the Embassy and other potential Western targets, and sent an accomplice to find explosives. He also met with local terrorist leaders to build up al Qaeda’s network in West Africa. In 2004, Harun directed a co-conspirator to travel from Nigeria to deliver information and materials to al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. After learning that the co-conspirator had been arrested in Pakistan, Harun fled Nigeria" “Al Qaeda Operative Convicted of Multiple Terrorism Offenses Targeting Americans Overseas,” March 16, 2017, Department of Justice


“If we are going to get the Paks to really fight the war on terror where it is, which is in their country, don’t you think we ought to get a chunk of money, so that we can ease Musharraf’s transition from where he is to where we need him” Office of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld “snowflake” to Douglas Feith, Subject: “Pakistan,” June 25, 2002, 12:31 p.m., not classified Page 1


"When Musharraf gives us the ability to operate through Pakistan to knock down the Taliban regime, there is a view as it is said by all of the principals, that Musharraf and Pakistan are our most important ally in the War on Terror. Because of people's personal confidence in Musharraf and because of things he was continuing to do in helping police up a bunch of the al-Qaeda in Pakistan. There was a failure to perceive the double game that he starts to play by late 2002, early 2003. You are seeing the security incidents start to go up and it is out of the safe havens. I think that the Afghans and Karzai himself, are bringing this up constantly even in the earlier parts of 2002. They are meeting unsympathetic ears because of the belief that Pakistan was helping us so much on al-Qaeda. So to what degree is there a recognition of this and by which principals? It varies and you would have to go person by person but there is never a full confrontation of Pakistan in its role supporting the Taliban" Marin Strmecki, Lessons Learned interview, 10/19/2015 Former civilian adviser on Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Page 10


"I think at least I shared a general assumption which was that the Taliban had been so quickly and rapidly overthrown that it was likely that it was -- that it had been heavily discredited and was unlikely to make a come back. That turned out to be wrong largely because it discounted the likelihood that Pakistan would continue to see the Taliban as a useful surrogate and would essentially help resuscitate it. I think that wasn’t spotted by anybody at the time. The Pakistani role wasn’t really recognized in Washington for seven or eight years.” James Dobbins, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016 Former U.S. diplomat. U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2013-2014 Page 25,26 Audio Available Min 31:30


"The central question seems to be— are the Pakistanis playing a giant double-cross in which they absorb one billion dollars a year from the U.S. while pretending to support U.S. objectives to create a stable Afghanistan—while in fact actively supporting cross-border operations of the Taliban (that they created) --in order to give them themselves a weak rear area

threat for their central struggle with the Indians?" Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 8


"So as Pakistanis describe it, they went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries literally overnight with that civil war next door, so when they can get a faction, which turned out to be the Taliban that controlled most of the country, of course, you're going to back it. So as I got to know people in Pakistan, in particular, I'll give you his name, but please don't put it in the report, and it's when Ashfaq Kayani was head of ISI. He -- we had one particular normal conversation, which I was getting on him again about the Haqqanis and the Quetta Shura. And he says, "You know, I know you think we're hedging our bets, you're right, we are because one day you'll be gone again, it'll be like Afghanistan the first time, you'll be done with us, but we're still going to be here because we can't actually move the country. And the last thing we want with all of our other problems is to have turned the Taliban into a mortal enemy, so, yes, we're hedging our bets." Ryan Crocker, Lessons Learned interview, 12/1/2016 Retired U.S. diplomat. U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011-2012, and acting ambassador, 2002. U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007 Page 35-36 Audio Available Min 41


“A Taliban Leader 'You have all the clocks but we have all the time'” State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Afghan Supplemental,” February 6, 2006 Page 2


"NEUMANN: Nobody was coming up with the troops that were required to invest in the security situation. By the fall of 2005, I had reported, in combination with General Eikenberry, that we were going to face a vastly increased insurgency in the next year, in 2006, and that it was going to get much bloodier, much worse. I also said that in some public statements because I thought it was important to try to prepare the American public for that so that they wouldn’t be surprised and see everything as a reverse. But that didn’t change anything that we got in terms of forces or in terms of money on the economic side. I requested a $600 million economic supplemental in the fall of 2005 for the fiscal year of 2006. After months of discussion, I got $43 million approved out of that 600 million that I asked for, which is a mark of how little progress we made in getting what we needed." US Afghan Ambassador Ronald Neumann interview, June 19, 2012, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Page 164


"if we don’t do this right, we’re going to allow these guys to keep us languishing


"We have, oh, a very large number of allies that are participating with us. It looks to me as though we are going to be as a country able to draw down our forces in Afghanistan by, oh I suppose, 2,000 or 3,000 sometime very soon and it's a direct result of the progress that's being made in the country, the fact that their parliament's now been seated and the fact that NATO is assuming a larger responsibility, so I feel quite good about the situation in Afghanistan and the fact that we are able to draw down our forces somewhat." Donald Rumsfeld interview, CNN, Larry King Live, December 19, 2005


"SUMMARY: I believe violence will rise through the next several months. It will likely be directed at ISAF as well as the Coalition in addition to more traditional targets such as pro-government officials and religious figures in the Provinces. We should anticipate more suicide bombs in Kabul and other major cities. As the troop density of NATO in the south increases and we conduct aggressive operations, the total number of incidents will also rise. We need to understand it analytically in a regional context. The violence does not indicate a failing policy; on the contrary we need to persevere in what we are doing. We will, however, need to anticipate and plan for increased media scrutiny and possibly increased concern from Europe, its Parliaments and certainly its media… I believe that what we are seeing is largely the result of four years that the Taliban has had to reorganize and think about their approach in a sanctuary beyond the reach of either Government. This will lead to the increasing violence this summer; it will lead to a long-term continuation of the insurgency as long as they can re-supply from their current areas; and, if left unaddressed, it will also lead to the re-emergence of the same strategic threat to the United States that prompted our OEF intervention over 4 years ago." State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Policy on Track, But Violence Will Rise,” February 21, 2006 Classified By: Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann Page 1,3


"They now have excellent weapons, new IED technology, commercial communications gear and new field equipment. They are employing suicide bombers who are clearly not just foreigners. In many cases, they appear to have received excellent tactical, camouflage, and marksmanship training. They are very aggressive and smart in their tactics. Their base areas in Pakistan are secure. Drug money and international financial support have energized their operations. Their IO campaign is excellent." Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 4


"In my view, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan requires a continuing division-sized US military force with at least six ground combat battalions supported by significant: US Anny aviation, engineers, USAF CAS and Cl30/ AC130, civil affairs, military police, reconnaissance, intelligence, logistics, and 155mm and MLRS artillery support."Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 5


"In my view, they will soon adopt a strategy of ''waiting us out."" Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 4


"The Afghan Army is miserably under-resourced. This is now a major morale factor for their soldiers. They have shoddy small arms ---described by Minister of Defense W ardak as much worse than he had as a Mujadeen fighting the Soviets 20 years ago. Afghan field commanders told me that they try to seize weapons from the Taliban who they believe are much better armed. The ANA report AK47's in such poor maintenance condition that rounds spin into the ground at 100 meters. Many soldiers and police have little ammunition and few magazines... The Afghan National Police are vital to establishing order in the urban and rural areas. (33,000 Afghan National Police ANP nominally exist and 5,200 Afghan Border Police) They are in a disastrous condition: badly equipped, corrupt, incompetent, poorly led and trained, riddled by drug use and lacking any semblance of a national police infrastructure. There is very little oversight at Province or District level." Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 6,7


"We will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months that will require US fighting forces which can respond rapidly throughout this huge and chaotic country to preserve and nurture the enormous successes of the past five years. The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan in the coming few years-leaving NATO holding the bag-- and the whole thing will again collapse into mayhem. They do not believe the United States has made a strategic commitment to stay with them for the fifteen years required to create an independent, functional nation-state which can survive in this dangerous part of the world." Gen. Barry McCaffrey memo to Col. Mike Meese and Col. Cindy Jebb, June 3, 2006 Page 5


"We are not winning in Afghanistan; although we are far from losing. We still can win. We are pursuing the right general policies on governance, security and development. But because we have not adjusted resources to the pace of the increased Taliban offensive and loss of internal Afghan support we face escalating risks today. NATO ISAF is fighting well but whether it can sustain the political will to fight at current casualty levels for several -years is unknown. And NATO too is not winning. The Taliban are showing renewed confidence" State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Afghanistan: Where We Stand and What We Need,” August 29, 2006 Page 1


"DC: Now did you feel, you have been there twice now, did you see any changes or differences in Afghanistan from your first deployment to your second?


JB: Yes. Very much so. I’d say Afghanistan was probably about, I’d say from attacks and fighting, about ten times worse than it was the first time I was there. We said that we defeated the Taliban, but they were always in Pakistan and regrouping and planning and now they back stronger than they have ever been. So we have a tough fight on our hands in Afghanistan" Staff Sgt. John Bickford interview, February 23, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 16


"PT: One of the reasons we developed the threat model I talked about was because of the composition of the enemy we were facing. It was always a question of who these guys were we were fighting and why, and in what area. In one area you might be fighting a group of guys whose only interest is in protecting their earnings from drugs; in another area, you may be fighting hardcore ideologues who were really anti-government and that was their only focus; and in yet another area, you might be fighting some guys who are attacking at the behest of a corrupt official – and that’s a big question in Afghanistan: who are you fighting and are you fighting the right guys?" Capt. Paul Toolan interview, July 24, 2006, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 6-7


"The Canadians launched the operation. They had to retreat temporarily on first day, which ceded the initiative. The next day, a USA- 1 0 attacked a platoon of Canadians ... just completely knocked the stuffing out of them. So, the Canadians said we're stopping, and I said you can’t. NAC was in town pressuring us to continue so as not to withdraw humiliated. Canadians wanted to wait for tanks to arrive which was a month away. After a difficult 24 hours of wrangling and arm-twisting, supported mainly by US and Afghan forces, the Canadians re-launched their attack. The Taliban initially put more reserves into Panjwai where we killed or injured them - tens if not" Gen. David Richards interview, September 26, 2017, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR. Afghan Papers Page 5



“In 2007, there was no NATO campaign plan, a lot of verbiage and talk, but no plan… The instructions were kill terrorists and build the ANA. Also, don't fracture the alliance. There was no NATO plan. There was a lot of verbiage. There was no campaign plan. It just wasn't there. We had five or seven lines of effort. I don't recall what they all were, but only one of them was about kill/capture." Gen. Dan McNeill interview, undated, Lessons Learned Project, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Afghan Papers Page 2,4


"I tried to get someone to define for me what winning meant, even before I went over, and nobody could. Nobody would give me a good definition of what it meant. After I had been there for a couple weeks in 2007 and ... the question became, "What's achievable?" If we can raise them 10-12 spots on infant mortality, and on poverty indexes a few slots, that would be great. That idea came from responses to the question so widely diverse. Some people were thinking in terms of Jefferrsonian democracy, but that's just not going to happen in Afghanistan." Gen. Dan McNeill interview, undated, Lessons Learned Project, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Afghan Papers Page 2


"In 2006, big moves were made. There were the elections, Rumsfeld transitioned to Gates, and Petraeus took command in Iraq. In 2007, Hadley convinces the President that the NSC needs a bigger role. He needed a deputy to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, whose attention would break down to about 85 percent on Iraq and 15 percent on Afghanistan, or maybe even 90 percent attention on Iraq and 10 percent attention on Afghanistan. This reflects the weight of effort regarding troop numbers. In 2007, Afghanistan was viewed as an "economy of force"- in other words, a secondary effort." Douglas Lute, Lessons Learned interview, 2/20/2015White House war czar for Afghanistan, 2007-2013. Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Page 2



"Like other warlords mentioned in the Human Rights Watch report (reftel), Dostum was clearly upset over allegations that he had committed human rights abuses. "My sin was to fight for my country", he said. He noted that the report had already attracted criticism in Afghanistan, and asked the Charge to talk to President Karzai about it. "I've been called so many names, there are no names left… The Charge did his best to calm Dostum's quasi-paranoia, noting that he had indeed been a friend of the USA and the Coalition forces and was also a supporter of the central government … Rumors about Dostum also flow freely around Kabul. When Uzbek MP Faizollah Zeki, once a close Dostum supporter, remained unreachable for several weeks in Uzbekistan, Dostum was said to have had his guards beat and rape him. Zeki denied the report, but many do not believe his denial. Another current tale is that Dostum recently raped a young servant working in his house, and stories about his drunkenness are constant fare" State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Meeting with General Dostum,” December 23, 2006


"Our first wrong step down the road was we were obsessed with chasing Talibs. We didn't know the population was thrilled with the Taliban kicking the warlords out. On the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, we relied on the warlords during the kinetic part of the anti-Taliban fight. A big mistake was letting the warlords take political power. Civilians weren't any better." Sarah Chayes, Lessons Learned interview, 5/26/2015 Former senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former adviser to chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. Former NPR reporter Page 2


"TO: Larry Di Rita

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld ~~

SUBJECT: Dostum Note


Please find out if this note was ever passed to the President. If it wasn't, we

should put a covering memo explaining who Dostum is and send it along.


"Dear U.S president, George W. Bush!

Please accept my cardinal greetings on New Year's Day! Afghan people. experiencing peace after a long period of sufferings are grateful for your efforts in this regard. We believe that the coming

New Year will be a year of relief and reconstruction. I wish your Excellency good health, great successes and the

best of luck. Sincerely yours,

A. R. Dostum, Leader of Islamic

National Movement of Afghanistan" Tommy Franks memo to Donald Rumsfeld, January 9, 2002, the National Security Archive, George Washington University - Donald Rumsfeld memo to Larry Di Rita, January 10, 2002- Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum letter to President George W. Bush


"Rohrabacher then turned to his second issue - which was finding an appropriate role for such figures as Jumbesh leader Abdul Rashid Dostum and Herat Governor Ismail Khan. Rohrabacher told Karzai that Operation Enduring Freedom was successful because Afghans were willing to fight hard to change the status quo… The Afghan leaders in the war effort were from different ethnic backgrounds & Warlords was an inappropriate term for these figures. Rohrabacher preferred ethnic leaders & Rohrabacher concluded that Afghanistan had always had powerful provincial figures and that Karzai had to find some way to incorporate these ethnic leaders into the modern Afghan state… Karzai responded that the principal complaint of the Afghan people today was the TISA's association with warlords. Just a few days ago, Karzai added, a clash between Dostum and Attas forces in Mazar resulted in 17 dead. The Afghan government, Karzai continued, is criticized because it allows the warlords to exist. Karzai welcomed the continued presence of such figures in Afghanistan, but said they had no right to act outside the law, and must respect life and property. Such outlaw behavior had to end… Karzai noted that what the people really want is to live under law, and people are starting to complain that under the Taliban at least there was law and order" State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Congressman Rohrabacher’s April 16 Meeting With President Karzai,” April 16, 2003


"Dostum was a pretty powerful guy, a well-connected warlord. He’s no humanitarian. I mean, he isn’t a good guy, but one by one, we were isolating warlords, as opposed to taking them on all at one time. One by one, we would isolate them and take them… But basically, what happened to Dostum is Dostum got sick, had liver failure, because you know—a good Muslim guy—he was drinking a bit, and most of his life. He lived a hard life, and basically he had liver failure, and his handler called me up one night and said, “Colonel”—we met at the dinner—“Dostum, he’s dying. He’s very sick. The doctors here don’t know what’s wrong. Can you help him out?” And I said, “Yes. What we’ll do is, take him to Bagram and we’ll have him checked,” and we had a very good medical facility at Bagram. So, they fly Dostum from Mazar-e Sharif down to Bagram, and I get a call from the chief of staff down there—I think it was Col. Chuck Cardinal, was the chief of staff—and he goes, “He’s going to die. Liver failure,” and I said, “Well, can we keep him alive?” And he says, “Yeah. We gotta get him to a Level 1 medical facility,” and I said, “Well, what in the hell are those?” And he says, “Well, Walter Reed,” and I said, “He’s going to Washington? We’ve got to treat a warlord at Walter Reed? The ambassador isn’t going to go for that.” And I said, “Wait a minute. How about Landstuhl?” And so we sent Dostum to Landstuhl, and they cured him. They fixed him, and they worked out the equipment he would need to stay alive" Col. David Lamm interview, March 14, 2007, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C Enduring Voices: Oral Histories of the U.S. Army Experience in Afghanistan, 2003–2005 Page 149-150


"In the original briefing to Rumsfeld, there was a discussion of the need for a legitimate government Warlordlsm was a mortal threat to the legitimacy of the regime that we were helping to establish for many reasons, including the abuse of the locals by the warlords. These were the very people that made the Tallban seem like a good alternative to Afghans In the mid-90's. So the Warlord Strategy is essentially to engineer a series of deals with the warlords in which they would agree to demobilize their private armies in exchange for some kind of political role in the government- provided they would operate by the rules of the new Afghanistan." Marin Strmecki, Lessons Learned interview, 10/19/2015 Former civilian adviser on Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Page 8


"Several factors have turned Afghan corruption in recent years, from a customary practice into a major threat to the country's future. Many of our contacts fear that narcotics could be the factor that causes corruption to spin out of control. They also see international aid and necessary USG Coalition engagement wíth some unsavory figures as perpetuating the problem. In the wake of the September 18 parliamentary elections it is time for the new Afghan Government to finally take ownership of some solutions. In the short term President Karzai must take the moral high ground by removing corrupt officials including his brother Ahmad Wali" State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Confronting Afghanistan’s Corruption Crisis,” September 15, 2005


"The other big problem is me, you and Jessie Helms. Jessie Helms because when the Soviet Union fell apart, we had to cut a deal with Jessie Helms to continue our aid programs. The deal with Jessie Helms was that we would spend the money in the United States. We would buy American products, American grain, American consultants, American Security experts, and they would implement our aid programs. Those billions of dollars you guys were trying to track down, I mean you must be able to find this number. The Afghans used to tell me that somewhere between 10-20% actually shows up in Afghanistan, and less than 10% ever gets to a village. So you tell us [the Afghans] that you just spent a billion dollars as we see $50 million worth of roads. You [the U.S.] hire a big contractor and inside the beltway consultant, who then hires 15 subcontractors. The first guy takes 20%, then next level takes 20% who would go hire a bunch of expensive American experts to do what Afghan diaspora refugees or Indian experts could do for ten times the price. [These Americans we hire] travel to Afghanistan first class or at least business class with five security guys each. Then you come and maybe you do training for the same group of people that have been trained 12 times by different countries or you go out to the village to build a school and that is very nice. The money you spend doesn't get to the village, doesn't really help the Afghan government… That is where part of the problem is me. People like me that didn't go up to Congress and say "40% of this money will disappear - I guarantee it. I will do my best to make sure we know where it goes. I will make sure it is spent as usefully as possible given the circumstance. But 40% is going to disappear and I just want you to know that upfront. I want it to disappear in Afghanistan, rather than in the beltway. So, give me less money and let me spend it in Afghanistan through the government and then ask the government what they do with it." Not only that, but probably in the end it is going to make sure that more of the money gets to some villager, maybe through five layers of corrupt officials, but still gets to some villager." Ambassador Richard Boucher interview, October 15, 2015, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Afghan War Papers Page 2,3 Retired U.S. diplomat. Assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, 2006-2009


"Basically, the major players are the district governor, his deputy, the police chief, and the intel chief. Those three [four] guys are usually the main players at any given province. So we had Sher Muhammad, Daoud Muhammad Khan was the intel chief, and then a guy named Abdul Raman Jan was the district police chief. I don’t believe any of them stayed in their jobs thereafter… You know, I think they were all making pretty good efforts, but there was always a question of corruption, and with all of the drugs and poppy production going on in Helmand, that was always a—these guys always had that in there as a question mark behind them, not just from me but from higher headquarters, intel. Everybody else was always like, “Are these guys involved in drugs?” That was always the thing behind every conversation—this ongoing chess game of corruption, who’s making money, how are they making money, you know? It’s kind of an ongoing problem over there."Lt. Col. Eugene Augustine interview, February 22, 2007, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C - Enduring Voices: Oral Histories of the U.S. Army Experience in Afghanistan, 2003–2005 Page 437


"SMA was a simple minded tyrant but he was effective as governor, but he kept other bad guys at bay like Rice Baghrani (sp?). SMA was dirty but he kept stability because people were afraid of him. It's not good and I'm not advocating dancing with the devil, but maybe one of his disciples, and that was SMA. Brits said we won't take over Helmand unless SMA is removed. Brits had designs of doing big CN (Counter Narcotics) efforts there and knew SMA would get in the way. Lots of Brits were dying in London because of opium that came from AFG. Brits also kicked out USSOF in the province, which helped bring stability. That, along with firing SMA, were huge mistakes." Gen. Dan McNeill interview, undated, Lessons Learned Project, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Afghan Papers Page 6


"It’s like 90 percent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan. Almost 100 percent of what goes into Europe comes from there… So the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was over there and they had to persuade the Afghan government that something needed to be done. It wasn’t the first drug demand operation but it may have been the biggest. They say it was very successful. I think that’s just plain B.S… I don’t think that the eradication through River Dance was worth a damn" Lt. Col. Michael Slusher interview, February 16, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 14-15


"Pending verification, it appears that a relatively modest amount of the estimated 40,000 ha cultivated will have been eradicated - less than ten percent. The effort may also have provided some temporary security enhancement in specific areas. However, this may have been counterbalanced as significant numbers of police deserted their posts to work as day laborers in the poppy fields. Eradication appeared selective, often focusing on poor farmers. There are reports of widespread corruption, including payoffs to district officials and deals struck among farmers, suspected Taliban, government officials, and eradication forces. Central Helmand, where about 70 percent of Helmand's poppy is cultivated, was largely ignored. The effort did extend the reach of the government, but not always in a positive manner. Cash for Work (CFW) efforts suffered from a labor shortage because day wages for poppy harvesting far exceeded CFW wages… We received anecdotal field reports from U.S. military and AEF that eradication in some cases was linked to various arrangements among farmers, district officials, and the eradication forces. Taliban forces also may have made arrangements with the local officials. One report noted that eradication appeared to focus on poorer farmers, while skipping fields that belonged to government officials or better connected landowners. One farmer complained to a U.S. military advisor that, despite paying a bribe, his poppy plants were nevertheless eradicated. AEF officials reported that government officials led eradicators past many cultivated fields in a seemingly arbitrary manner. In one case, AEF officials said that government officials led the AEF forces past several unharvested fields to one already harvested. Poppy fields can be harvested four to five times, depending upon the quality of the plants. The eradication forces apparently paid minimal attention to the "poppy belt" in central Helmand, where most poppy is cultivated. This is the area where it is more likely that powerful tribal leaders and officials have significant interests and influence" State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Helmand Eradication Wrap Up,” May 3, 2006


"I believe that we can also have a security like in other countries, look during Taliban regime there was security, people were telling me stories that during Taliban the money changers used to cover their money just under a sheet and they used to go to pray without the fear that someone will steal their money. The reason was that law was enforced, people knew that law will be enforced, no Khelji or Durani will be spared, and the law will be enforced on any one who steals. When Taliban ordered to stop poppy cultivation, Mullah Omar could enforce it with his blind eye, no one cultivated poppy after the order was passed. Now, billions of dollars came and were given to the ministry of counter narcotic, it actually didn’t decrease the poppy even increased." Tooryalai Wesa, Lessons Learned interview, 1/7/2017 Former governor of Kandahar province, 2008-2014 Page 6


"When the United States and its coalition partners intervened in Afghanistan in 2001, poppy cultivation was at an historic low due to a successful, short-lived Taliban ban on cultivation." “Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” June 2018, SIGAR Page 8


"The initial two years of counterdrug work were marked by increased poppy cultivation and drug production as farmers and traffickers took advantage of the power vacuum that followed the collapse of the Taliban government. The lack of functioning Afghan law enforcement and judicial institutions on which counternarcotics work normally relies limited the options available to address the drug trade. In the spring of 2002, the UK started an eradication program based on compensating farmers whose poppy crops were destroyed. This approach proved to be misguided and ineffective, as it was inconsistently applied and undercut by corruption. Yet, the UK embraced the unrealistic goal of eliminating poppy cultivation within 10 years. At this stage, U.S. counternarcotics programs were minimal, in part due to the U.S. military’s concerns that counterdrug efforts would detract from higher priority counterterrorism goals." “Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” June 2018, SIGAR Page 8


"Compensated eradication was a wrong and naive program. There was no knowledge of nuances and don't know they really cared. An appalling piece of complete raw naivete." Anthony Fitzherbert, Lessons Learned interview, 6/21/2016 British consultant and expert on Afghanistan's agricultural sector. Former consultant to Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, 2004-2005 Page 1


"The next two years: the Taliban came back, 2004-06. Why?? We somehow came up with the explanation that it was drugs: the Taliban profit from drugs, and therefore drugs cause the Taliban. There was an NSC meeting where the key to the Taliban was presented as drugs. Also, the abuses of local powerbrokers were drugs. And the way to deal with that was eradication. This became the policy. But we were not paying much attention, never really got this policy off the ground." Barnett Rubin, Lessons Learned interview, 8/27/2015 Academic expert on Afghanistan and senior adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009-2013 Page 3


"She thinks it is important to act soon, to avoid having a situation where drug money elects the Afghan Parliament, and the Afghan Parliament then opposes Karzai and corrupts the government" Donald Rumsfeld memo to Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Tom O’Connell, October 19, 2004 Page 2


"Many of our contacts correctly fear that the burgeoning narcotics sector could spin Afghan corruption out of anyone's control. They fear that the sheer mass of illegal money from growing, processing and trafficking opium, could strangle the legitímate Afghan state in its cradle." State Department cable, Kabul to Washington, “Confronting Afghanistan’s Corruption Crisis,” September 15, 2005


"The most memorable one to me would be, we had been beating the drum for a while in terms of "This is why we need more people, this is how bad it is," etc., and General McKiernan comes down. The quote -- this wasn't to me but to General Nicholson -- was "We may have done too good of a job explaining how bad it is over here." Two weeks later, it's announced that General McKiernan is going to be replaced by General McChrystal. I think McKiernan had been given the word. That was the most memorable. He said it very professionally, he wasn't angry, but now I can look back and reflect that he had just gotten the word. The message was that we may have done a little bit too good a job explaining how challenging it is over here." Maj. Fred Tanner interview, March 4, 2010, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 8


"At the time, I was looking at Afghanistan and I was thinking that there has to be more to solving this problem than killing people, because that's what we were doing and every time I went back security was worse." Edward Reeder Jr., Lessons Learned interview, 10/26/2017


"In the first draft of McChrystal 's review of the strategy there was no mention of al-Qaeda. In 2009, the perception was that al-Qaeda was no longer a problem. But the entire reason for being in Afghanistan was al-Qaeda. So then the second draft included them. There were no internationals on McChrystal's advisory group for the review. It was all Americans think-tankers and talking heads. The question came up during the review of the first draft on references to the intervention being a war. There are big implications with calling this a war. Legally under international law that his serious implications. So we checked with the legal team and they agree it's not a war ... so a line in the final draft of the review says "While not a war in a conventional sense .... "" NATO official in Brussels, Lessons Learned interview, 2/24/2015 Page 3


"COIN works when the government is in charge of COIN, so they didn't have to hand it over to anyone ... but we were doing COIN as colonial power. Afghans knew this influx of funds wouldn't last, and they wanted to make the best of the windfall without endangering themselves. It was a fantasy that we could do that ... He (Richard Holbrooke) didn't believe in COIN, but he knew he would get in trouble if he said that" Barnett Rubin, Lessons Learned interview, 2/17/2017Academic expert on Afghanistan and senior adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009-2013 Page 2


"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over… All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars" December 01, 2009 Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan


"Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan" December 01, 2009 Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan


“During the surge there were massive amounts of people and money going into Afghanistan. It’s like pouring a lot of water into a funnel; if you pour it too fast, the water overflows the funnel onto the ground. We were flooding the ground." David Marsden, Lessons Learned interview, 12/3/2015 Former deputy director of technical services at USAID's Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs Page 3


"We were also pouring money into huge infrastructure projects to obligate money that was appropriated to show we could spend it. And we were building infrastructure in ways that Afghanistan could never sustain or even use in some cases. One poignant example of this is a ribbon cutting ceremony complete with the giant scissors I attended for the district police chief in some God-forsaken province. It was a USACE (The United States Army Corps of Engineers) completed building with a glass facade and an atrium. The police chief couldn't even open the door; he had never seen a doorknob like this. To me, this encapsulates the whole experience in Afghanistan… 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? Can't we get a bit more rational about this?" Douglas Lute, Lessons Learned interview, 2/20/2015 White House war czar for Afghanistan, 2007-2013. Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Page 3-4


"The industrial park was a failure because there was no strong native to be the

linchpin for the project. The project fell apart when I left. The park was also hampered by electricity. We ultimately put in generators. It blew my mind how much we didn't know about the park in the first place when we embarked on this project. It was impossible to get info on it, even where it was located. It was that much of a blank spot. Nobody knew anything about anything. We finally found it. A separate organization had new streets and sewers, but nothing was built. A footprint for the park was done. Don't know who did it, but figured it was there, so let's try to use it." Tim Graczewski, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2015 U.S. Navy Reserve intelligence officer. Served as economic development officer in southern Afghanistan Page 2


"We can't fight and spend out way out of this ... the only way to stabilize area is to fund powerbrokers to get to stability, and then you have the space to build rule of law ... just like the king used to rule with khans. Every time we threw money at a system, we destroyed it or made it worse. Paying people to clean canals that they had always cleaned themselves. Applying monetary value to everything that happens, so how is that sustainable. The duty roster at the Kajaki dam was dated from 1981 when I went to visit. Sangin valley will never be secure, I don't care what the Marines say. Army says, if they have electricity in Kandahar and helmand, they won't fight. You're bringing electricity to people who've never had it... Why did we think providing electricity to communities in Kandahar who had no concept of what to do with it would convince them to abandon the Taliban?" Senior USAID official, Lessons Learned interview, 8/15/2016 Page 3


"Since 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have implemented 17 infrastructure projects and spent about $775 million to increase electric power generation capacity at the Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province to 51.5 megawatts, provide short-term, diesel-fueled power generation, and improve the delivery of power to customers in Helmand and Kandahar provinces through the Southeast Power System (SEPS)... After investing about $775 million over the past decade, USAID and DOD have not finished SEPS, which is needed to transmit power from the Kajaki Dam, and Afghans in southern Afghanistan have not yet received the intended benefits from these projects" "Afghanistan’s Energy Sector,” SIGAR 19-37 Audit Report, May 2019 Page 2


"Shea-Porter: General Petraeus, are we nation-building?...

General Petraeus: We are indeed…

Shea-Porter: Well, let me just say that I’ve heard over and over again that we are not nation-building, that we are here, you know, in Afghanistan for a different reason," Developments in Afghanistan: Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, Hearing Held June 16, 2010 Page 35



"One is presence of the government and one is presence of good governance. We needed good governance, absence of good governance is one of the cause of the instability. Just bring in symbolic presence of the government, just putting sign board of the government’s presence, unfortunately that happened here, is not going to be useful. Even some development projects were paying the insurgents for its completion, so such presence of government will be even harmful to stability. I give you an example, in Alingar district (Laghman) there was a bridge named Nalyar bridge, it was blown up by the Taliban. The company came in within a week and started its reconstruction, don’t you think they paid the Taliban to allow the reconstruction. If the bridge was a threat to them, why did they allow its reconstruction while the area was not in the governments control? We have information that there were people that had a construction company getting contracts from the government while his other brother was in the Taliban and blowing and destroying things." Safiullah Baran, Lessons Learned interview, 2/18/2017 Former USAID project manager and technical adviser in Afghanistan Page 6


"In general, across eastern Afghanistan at the height of the surge, CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program) templates and area assessments were clearly copied and pasted from Iraq-they still had references to "sheikhs" in them… Instead of being the SMEs, we let ourselves be treated as program managers just facilitating the spending of money for money's sake. At one point, I told my brigade that if we are going to ignore impact, then the smartest thing to do is nothing. I got crickets. "We can't build nothing," they said. I told them we might as well throw our money away. Commanders could never get past the first "why" when discussing a project's justification. In a resource-restricted environment, if you want your project to be funded, it has to be rigorous and thoughtful. If the resources are infinite, there is no need to use your head or be accountable. If we don't have to make any tradeoffs, priorities, or sacrifices, why would we think at all? If no one has to ask why, the ideas are going to be awful. And that's what happened." U.S. Army civil affairs officer, Lessons Learned interview, 7/12/2016 Page 2


"The crack cocaine of development was how much money was spent. It was an addiction that affected every agency…Money Starts With Congress: How much money was spent starts with Congress. Congress gives us money to spend and expects us to spend all of it. No one in the military is going to go back and say we really don't need all this money, we only need X amount of money. The attitude became we don't care what you do with the money as long as you spend it, that was wrong… More Money Doesn't Mean Better: There was a $30,000 greenhouse and the bottom was composed of various materials not sustainable by the local Afghan. We had a team member make a greenhouse for $55 that did exactly what the $30,000 greenhouse did. It started the growing season sooner- now I can convince an Afghan to spend $55 on a greenhouse because it works and it's cheap." Brian Copes, Lessons Learned interview, 2/25/2016 Retired U.S. Army brigadier general. Former director of Joint Staff, Indiana National Guard. Served in Khost province in 2009 Page 2,3


“The American military seemed to have very little respect for public money. CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program) was a dark pit of endless money for anything with no accountability. lt was really strange to observe. They would bend the rules in any way they wanted. Millions of dollars were committed with such callousness… You were talking about fuel for generators at a cost of over $ 100 million a year. My job was to get the international community to pay for it. We went to the World Bank, they didn't want to touch it. From January to April 2010 we worked on this. People look at it and they think it's crazy" NATO official in Brussels, Lessons Learned interview, 2/24/2015 Page 2


"I initially took a heat map of attacks and overlaid it with CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program) projects and found that our most expensive projects in RC-East were in the most kinetic areas, which didn't make sense. CERP was supposed to be short term and had gotten out of control. The whole point of COIN and stabilization was to develop kinetic areas a little bit as soon as the fighting died down so that real development could take place, but that wasn't happening. These projects had nothing to do with COIN. One brigade promised to build 50 schools in their AO, even though there weren't enough teachers to fill them, so buildings languished and some of them even became bomb making factories." U.S. military officer, Lessons Learned interview, 7/11/2016 Page 1


"The other thing, just in terms of Karzai’s attitude, is this: the United States, blatantly, tried to shape the outcome of the Afghan election in August of 2009. The UN High Representative, Kai Eide, was briefing the NATO defense ministers. Just because of the alphabet, he would sit next to me at those meetings. He and I became good friends, partly because I’d been a strong proponent of creating his job and putting him in it. But he leaned over to me and said, “I will say”—This is his first meeting after the election—“I am going to tell the ministers that there was blatant foreign interference in the Afghan election. What I will not say is it was the United States and Richard Holbrooke.” The reason Karzai made deals with the warlords and engaged in fraud in the election was that, unlike the previous election, when we had supported him, he knew we’d walked away from him, so he basically said the hell with you." Robert Gates interview, July 9, 2013, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia


"We visited villages the US and the French had never visited and they were happy to see you. We built a police station for them and gave them food because they didn't have food. We changed their perception, because previously they had heard bad news through gossip about coalition forces. The people we saw every day, we didn't change their perception. These people were pro Afghan Army, but thought the police was dirty and didn't care for the local government. They were ok with the US, they thought the US liberated them from the Taliban. But news of US troops killing civilians didn't help. There was a riot in Nijrob about it once. The perception was US troops were killing women and children and they are just trying to buy us with the dollar." U.S. military officer, Lessons Learned interview, 1/8/2015 Page 4


"Every time we had a huge fight with Karzai or he blew up in public, in every single instance he had been talking to us for months in private about that problem. We didn’t pay attention. Whether it was private contractors, night raids, you name it, in every instance this guy was telling us, directly, it was a problem. Many of these things we could have prevented had we just been listening better. I make this theme throughout my book. I made this point time and again inside the administration, particularly in the Obama administration. People were just dissing Karzai: “He’s a crackpot.” “He depends on us for everything.” “He is a terrible ally.”" Robert Gates interview, July 9, 2013, George W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia


"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government. These problems have alienated large segments of the Afghan population. They do not trust GIRoA to provide their essential needs, such as security, justice, and basic services. This crisis of confidence, coupled with a distinct lack of economic and educational opportunity, has created fertile ground for the insurgency." Commander’s Initial Assessment, International Security Assistance Force, August 30, 2009


"At end 2003, the US wanted "progressive constitution." Religious leaders were approached, like Sayyaf, son of Mohameddi, Mohseni (Shia). They received nice packages from the US in return for accepting certain measures on women, human rights. "The perception that was started in that period: If you were going to vote for a position that the USG favored, you'd be stupid to not get a package for doing it" So that even those in favor would ask for compensation. By Parliament in 2005, that logic kicked in. Women delegates would say, my vote is worth a few thousand dollars, even if voting for something I agree with. There was the impression you would get this for doing something that the US badly wanted. "Later in the parliamentary period, people would tell each other, so-and-so has just been to the US embassy and got this money. They said 'ok now I need to go.' I can't say this money was spent after the Ljs, but the precedent was set at the ELJ and CLJ." Perception is very important in the corruption problem. Everyone else was paying- Karzai was paying too. Due to the caucuses, the LJ processes were way more formative than later elections processes. So from the beginning, their experience with democracy was one in which money was deeply embedded." U.N. official, Lessons Learned interview, 7/31/2015 Page 4


"The big picture question is also about what are we doing here [in Afghanistan]? What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion? These conversations are only happening in private. After the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan." Jeffrey Eggers, Lessons Learned interview, 8/25/2015 Retired Navy SEAL. Former National Security Council staffer during the Bush and Obama administrations. Former senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Page 3


"What we never came to grips with is kleptocracy. And by 2006, the Afghan government had self-organized into a kleptocracy. So how corruption manifested itself was not a classic patronage network, where I have my people, I put them in position, and expect them to perform. But instead, a number of senior positions were purchased for a price. People didn't pay for the positions as a national service, but in the expectation that you'd recoup the cost, through cuts from assistance programs, selling uniforms or ammunition on the black market, drug trafficking, or kidnapping. The kleptocracy got stronger over time, to the point that the priority of the Afghan government became not good governance but sustaining this kleptocracy. But because we never appropriately identified or framed the problem, you have a huge dispersion [within the USG] in ideas of what corruption is. I like to use a cancer analogy. Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you'll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it's worse, but if you catch it in time, you're probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it's fatal… another obstacle the fact that corruption was dismissed as a "cultural" phenomenon or characteristic? Oh god yes, all the time. "Afghans are naturally corrupt and it's just a fact of life." You hear that from State, even and it's a bit disconcerting" Christopher Kolenda, Lessons Learned interview, 4/5/2016 Retired U.S. Army colonel. Strategic adviser to three commanders in Afghanistan Page 2



"In TP-2010 reviews of 3,000 contracts, we found that 18% of contract money went to the Taliban, Haqqaani, other insurgent groups. And it was often a higher percent. We talked with many former [Afghan] ministers, and they told us, ‘You’re underestimating it." Gert Berthold, Lessons Learned interview, 10/6/2015 Financial consultant and business executive. Former forensic operations program manager for anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan Page 5


"No one wanted accountability… If you’re going to do anti-corruption, someone has got to own it… No one is willing to own it. Not seen from Congress or leaders" Gert Berthold, Lessons Learned interview, 10/6/2015 Financial consultant and business executive. Former forensic operations program manager for anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan Page 4


“McClwystal wanted visibility on the flow of money from US contracts - and NATO. Objective # 1 was to gain visibility on the flow of money. I always told General Ridge we could get visibility and will follow the money - it's doable - to anywhere in the world. But sooner or later, you'll get asked, what are you going to do about it… The political world gets in the way. There are different objectives-politicians, CIA and a variety of agencies have different opinions on how to accomplish the goal. You end up having to work through it all to figure out which is best to get what you want to get done." Thomas Creal, Lessons Learned interview, 3/23/2016 Financial investigator. Former lead forensic accountant for U.S. military task force that investigated corruption Page 2


“We did the raid on the New Ansari Bank. It was huge. I thought it was a huge success. We conducted that raid and in three days, we did a lot of exploitation. We brought in like 45 people from around the country very quietly… We literally went there and surrounded the bank and had a standoff. We took all of the data… The lead up to that was that the New Ansari was just incredibly corrupt. It had double books and people were just stealing us blind. Money was being siphoned through it - hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions probably… The overall outcome ... was anyone held accountable? No, no one was held accountable" Michael Flynn, Lessons Learned interview, 11/10/2015 Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Former national security adviser and former director of Defense Intelligence Agency Page 5 Audio Available


“Corruption? Ask an Afghan for their example of corruption. They would answer that Kabul Bank is a major one. It had elements that you could put into a spy novel and the connections between people who owned Kabul Bank and those who run the country… On a scale of 1-10, it was a 20 here. Even though the banking system was small, it could have implications. Could spark other banks in the system. Affecting Afghans themselves, and have greater implications for the budget. There was full coverage surrounding the bank. I can't overstate the degree of how it was major issue with us." Senior U.S. Treasury official posted to Kabul as an adviser, Lessons Learned interview, 10/1/2015 Page 2


"There were different elements acting at different times. U.S. agencies were not acting in a cohesive unit, the Afghan NDS came across specific information on Kabul Bank and people moving money. They sent this information to DAB for review. I suspect that the U.S. intelligence agencies were keeping track of money flows as early as 2009. The U.S. government was aware of the money flows but it wasn't in their remit to pursue… Between the end-Sept 2009 to end-Sept 2010, there was knowledge of illegal activities in the bank and nothing was done by any of the agencies that knew until August 2010 when Kabul Bank went into receivership. July 2010 was the Farnood confession. He went to the U.S. embassy with documents. He did it because there was fighting between him (Farnood] and Ferozi over control of Kabul Bank. Ferozi was making moves to push Farnood out and he [Famood] thought the best option was to blow this [operation] up. In 2009, the intelligence community had the information and was working with FINTRACA. So that's where the NDS got its information. But it doesn't come to any else's attention until Farnood blows it up. The intelligence community couldn't do it because it wasn't in their mandate." Former legal adviser to Afghan anti-corruption agency, Lessons Learned interview, 3/1/2016 Page 1-2


"Technical advisors: I don't think the US gets good bang for its buck with many advisors. I have many scenarios in mind, but one was: I'd just arrived in Kabul and was meeting with the US lead Technical Advisor (TA) at the DAB [Afghanistan's Central Bank]. This was an American on a USAID contract who'd been there 3-4 years, five times per week at the DAB. We had an hour-long conversation. I asked him, do you think this is a financially sound bank? He said, Yes. And literally 30 days afterward, the whole house of cards came down. This was one of the biggest misses in my career. A $1 billion bank collapsed, and the US advisor swore to me it was financially sound. Indicates that we need to review the quality of TA that USG pays for." Treasury Department official, Lessons Learned interview, 7/27/2015 Page 2 (Discussing the investigation/scandal into the fall of the Kabul Bank)


"It was a case study of how fragile and precarious US policy can be. Literally overnight our entire policy changed. Cracker's and Olsen's attitude was to make the issue go away, bury it as deep as possible and silence any voices within the embassy that wanted to make this an issue. They prevailed." What was driving their view? Making certain at all costs that US and donor support continued to flow. Ensure continuity of US assistance, regardless of results. If Eikenberry and Todd had continued another 8-10 months, we might have had a different outcome. It was a case where the personalities running the ship were extremely important" Treasury Department official, Lessons Learned interview, 7/27/2015 Page 2 (Discussing the investigation/scandal into the fall of the Kabul Bank)



"We have created an incentive to almost require or for people to lie. I do not want to sound like something from Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but there is an odor of

mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue" U.S. LESSONS LEARNED IN AFGHANISTAN


"Mr. Sopko. Well, I think we have referred to, in my statement, I talk about some of the statements made by AID, about the great success on life expectancy. It was statistically impossible to double the life expectancy of the time given. I think it is a combination of hubris and mendacity that anybody can do that. I mean the next thing you know, is we are going to be walking on water on an AID program. The education where we claimed millions of children were in school and AID knew that the data was bad, but they still reported it as if those millions of children, is that hubris? Is that mendacity? Probably a combination of both. I actually think the people on the ground thought they were doing a great job. They just never looked at all the data and they were not going to explain that the data was faulty." U.S. LESSONS LEARNED IN AFGHANISTAN 116th Congress (2019-2020), John F. Sopko, SIGAR “ HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ONE HUNDRED SIXTEENTH CONGRESS SECOND SESSION January 15, 2020


“Truth was rarely welcome on the CAAT. Everyone at ISAF just wanted to hear good news, so bad news was often stifled. There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small-we're running over kids with our MRAPs-because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn't welcome and the boss wouldn't like it… With stories like that, it's clear how the strategy became self-validating. Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible. Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone" Bob Crowley, Lessons Learned interview, 8/3/2016 U.S. military adviser and retired Army colonel. Senior adviser at International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters, 2013-2014 Page 2-3


“Yes, [I share the same concerns about the color coded progress maps], and we continue to use them for the period I was there. There would be a caveat that these are not actually scientific figures, or this is not a scientific process behind this. So what is? My feelings and what colors I want to put up? We continue to use them and they had a really expensive machine that would print the really large pieces of paper like in a print shop. It made for interesting discussion. There were a number of discussions and there was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal? What is the meaning of the number of students who are in some way, shape or form taking an English language class? What is the meaning of laudable of the number of girls in schools? How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?" John Garofano, Lessons Learned interview, 10/15/2015 Professor at Naval War College. Deployed to Helmand province in 2011 to advise 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Page 3


"So they all went in for whatever their rotation was 9 months or 6 months, and were given that mission, accepted that mission and executed that mission. Then they all said, when they left they accomplished that mission. Every single commander. Not one commander is going to leave Afghanistan, or Iraq or any place, not one is going to leave and say, "you know what, we didn't accomplish our mission… From ambassadors down to the low level, {they all say) we are doing a great job. Really? So if we are doing such a great lob, why does It feel like we are losing" Michael Flynn, Lessons Learned interview, 11/10/2015 Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Former national security adviser and former director of Defense Intelligence Agency Page 8 Audio Available


"It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture… The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war… For example, attacks are getting worse? ‘That’s because there are more targets for them to fire at, so more attacks are a false indicator of instability.’ Then, three months later, attacks are still getting worse? ‘It’s because the Taliban are getting desperate, so it’s actually an indicator that we’re winning… And this went on and on for two reasons, to make everyone involved look good, and to make it look like the troops and resources were having the kind of effect where removing them would cause the country to deteriorate.”" Senior National Security Council official, Lessons Learned interview, 9/16/2016 Page 3-4 (Majority of this is redacted see here)


"In 2005 the Taliban returned at the start of the year, there was a doubling of civilian casualties. There were indications that trouble was coming. Gen Jacob Page… had some sort of sense that civilian casualties were important to track so he stood up what was supposed to be the mother of all databases … Then the Canadians forces came and took over and dropped it all together. It should be a standard operating procedure from the start to record civilian casualties but it wasn't. The military underestimated the long term strategic value of reputational risk and therefore really ignored the big picture implications of casualty tracking. The advantage of getting ahead on civilian tracking is that it establishes a reputation for being serious and showing that you're prepared to be accountable even before you're pressured to do it. There is a value of knowing what you have done as an organization whether in terms of civilian casualties or whether you're putting in water pumps." NATO official in Brussels, Lessons Learned interview, 2/18/2015 Page 2


"General Burgess:… I would like to begin with current military operations in Afghanistan where we assess that endemic corruption and persistent qualitative deficiencies in the ANA and ANP undermine efforts to extend effective governance and security. The ANA remains reliant on ISAF for key combat support such as logistics, intelligence, and transport. While ANA performance improved in some operations when partnered with ISAF units, additional gains will require sustained mentoring and support. Despite successful coalition targeting, the Taliban remains resilient and able to replace leadership losses while also competing to provide governance at the local level. From its Pakistani safe havens, the Taliban leadership remains confident of eventual victory" Senate Hearing, 112th Congress - Current and Future Worldwide Threats to the National Security of the United States General. Thursday, February 16, 2012


"Director Clapper:... If you forgive a little history, sir, I served as an analyst briefer for General Westmoreland in Vietnam in 1966. I kind of lost my professional innocence a little bit then when I found out that operational commanders sometimes do not agree with their view of the success of their campaign as compared to and contrasted with that perspective displayed by intelligence." Senate Hearing, 112th Congress - Current and Future Worldwide Threats to the National Security of the United States General. Thursday, February 16, 2012


"General Allen: We know there is much hard and deadly work to do. But the progress is real, and, importantly, it's sustainable. We have severely degraded the insurgency. As one Afghan commander told me in the South in the latter part of 2011, ``This time around, the Taliban was the away team.'' On top of that success, as a result of our recent winter operations, we have seriously degraded the Taliban's ability to mount a major spring offensive of their own. This spring, they will come back to find many of their caches empty, their former strongholds untenable, and a good many of their foot soldiers absent or unwilling to join the fight…


Senator Collins:.. It also gives me some hope when I hear you say: ``I'm confident that we will prevail in this endeavor. I believe we will be successful.'' But then I step back and I recall that I've heard very similar assessments from our commanders for 10 years now, that we're making progress, that they're hopeful that we'll be successful in the end, but that the gains are fragile and reversible. I also read press reports of a new assessment by our Intelligence Community, and I realize this is a classified assessment and that you cannot address it publicly in detail. But if the press reports are correct, they're very discouraging, they're very pessimistic about what the new National Intelligence Estimate says…


General Allen: Ma'am, if I didn't think it was doable I would tell you, and I'd tell you very quickly, because I wouldn't want to spend another life in this fight if it wasn't doable" The Situation in Afghanistan: Hearing Before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, Second Session, March 22, 2012



"DoD thought the quicker we can do our job, the quicker AID could take over ... DoD said, if we secure the environment, 300K ANSF could carry it forward, but thinking we could build the military that fast and that well was insane." Senior USAID official, Lessons Learned interview, 8/15/2016 Page 4


"GE: I tried to focus on logistics systems, and then I tried to work on getting the right leadership in the right positions. The battalion commander that I fell in on had just been charged with raping one of his soldiers. That was the first step, identifying who the replacement was going to be, and why that leader was still in place at that time.

JF: Were you able to actually accomplish that?

GE: He was replaced a week after I departed, so I was able to accomplish that. But then the guy who replaced him was killed by his own men in January of this year… at some point, I could see us being successful there, but until the Afghan government can positively affect the people there, we're wasting our time. We're buying time for the Afghan government, and until that happens which I think will probably be at least another 10 to 15 years before the Afghan government can even build roads and significantly help the people in the area, nothing we do is going to help." Maj. Greg Escobar interview, July 24, 2012, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 9,10


"People are supporting the government, in 2008 we conducted a survey in Helmand, it showed that 79% of the instability had local factors, like drug mafia, warlords, criminals, corruption and others. 21% of it was due external factors, which could be divided into sub factors. Majority of people are observers, they watch that who is doing what? Waiting for the government and Taliban that who is going to do what. All this majority could be your partner if they know that their life is secure. They know how to gauge their safety in the locality. They know power of the government, when they have the perception that the government cannot secure itself so how can the government provide security to me. For example when 50 Taliban can destabilize a whole district, so what will the people think? I spoke to about 200 community elders a while ago for one of my papers that was published in Foreign Policy. I asked them what is the number of police in your districts and number of Taliban, and population. I asked that why is it possible that a large number of about 500 security forces cannot defeat about 20 or 30 Taliban. The community elders replied that the security people are not there to defend people and fight Taliban, they are there to make money. They are selling their fuel, send soldiers or police to go home and the salaries are received by their chief or sell weapons. I asked the elders that ok the government is not protecting you, but you are about 30 thousand people in the district if you don’t like Taliban then you must fight against them. Their response was that we don’t want this corrupt government to come and we don’t want Taliban either, so we are waiting to see who is going win." Shahmahmood Miakhel, Lessons Learned interview, 2/7/2017Governor of Nangarhar province; former country director for Afghanistan at U.S. Institute of Peace. Former adviser to Afghan Interior Ministry and U.N. mission in Afghanistan Page 6


"Thirty percent desert the ANP with their weapons to set up their own private checkpoints." Norwegian official, Lessons Learned interview, 7/2/2015 Page 3


"AMBASSADOR CROCKER: You know, the Afghan special forces helped by us, can clear an area, but the police can't hold it, not because they're out-gunned or out-manned. It's because they are useless as a security force and they're useless as a security force because they are corrupt down to the patrol level" Ryan Crocker, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016 Retired U.S. diplomat. U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011-2012, and acting ambassador, 2002. U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007 Page 44


"Enlisted ODAs hated ALP (Afghan Local Police) because the ALP members were awful, the bottom of the barrel in the country that is already at the bottom of the barrel. Vast majority of ALPs didn't care and were just collecting a paycheck. That made the few guys who did care seem amazing" U.S. Special Forces officer, Lessons Learned interview, 9/7/2016 Page 2


"Some ALP commanders were better than others. About a third of ALP seemed to be drug addicts or Taliban. The ALP's main concern was getting fuel from the US unit, they always wanted fuel." U.S. military officer, Lessons Learned interview, 10/20/2016 Page 2


"For proper VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), you have to live and work in those communities .. .if you use surrogates or take shortcuts, you get what you pay for, and instead of ALPs (Afghan Local Police) properly integrated and monitored in their communities, you get unaccountable militias that prey on the population ... you have to commit to long-term presence and go at the pace of a population that trusts no one ... these communities had broken local governance systems and they needed bottom-up security and development to rebuild those systems the way they wanted to." Scott Mann, Lessons Learned interview, 8/5/2016 Retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and Special Forces officer Page 2


"Fewer than four in 10 Americans say the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting - up from its low but still a broadly negative judgment on the United States' longest conflict. Asked to consider its costs vs. benefits, 38 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting; 56 percent say it was not." At the End of Afghanistan War, Most Doubt its Value By Gary Langer January 4, 2015


2015-2016 2,284 bombs and missiles (Average of 3 a day)


"Today's ceremony in Kabul marks a milestone for our country. For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion… Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country. At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States--along with our allies and partners--will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda. Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation." December 28, 2014 Statement by the President on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan


"If you look at it after 15 years, we could have taken a thousand school children in first grade, well not quite first but fifth grade, and taken them to get educated and trained in Indian schools and colleges. Then we could have brought them back on an airplane by now and said ok you guys run Afghanistan. I am not sure that would have worked any better. Better than having a bunch of Americans going in and saying we can build it for you, with you, meaning you can come to my meetings and listen to me go on and on. I think part of it was Defense wanting to skedaddle, and this idea that you can have different sectors run by different countries. Part of it was that we trained people to be Americans, the Germans trained people to be Germans, and the Italians trained people to be Italians. Some of the Afghans remained Afghans" Ambassador Richard Boucher interview, October 15, 2015, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR Afghan War Papers Retired U.S. diplomat. Assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, 2006-2009 Page 5


"And to the American people -- I know that many of you have grown weary of this conflict. As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests. Yet given what’s at stake in Afghanistan, and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats, and the fact that we have an international coalition, I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.” October 15, 2015 Statement by the President on Afghanistan

"At the same time, Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be" October 15, 2015 Statement by the President on Afghanistan


"the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 17 years…We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists" The New York Times Aug. 21, 2017 President Trump addressed the nation on Monday from Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., to lay out his military plans for Afghanistan


"Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting… America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden." The New York Times Aug. 21, 2017 President Trump addressed the nation on Monday from Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., to lay out his military plans for Afghanistan


"Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition. Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge" The New York Times Aug. 21, 2017 President Trump addressed the nation on Monday from Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., to lay out his military plans for Afghanistan


"A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will." The New York Times Aug. 21, 2017 President Trump addressed the nation on Monday from Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., to lay out his military plans for Afghanistan


"There was an urgency to spend money, but no urgency to reduce bureaucracy. Reduce poppy now, but disregard as to what needed to be done to reduce it. There was a one size fits all approach in terms of assistance. Foreigners read kite runner on the plane and believe they are an expert on Afghanistan and then never listen. The only thing they are experts in is

bureaucracy… For USAID office a reduction in poppy is not a priority spending the money is a priority." Mohammed Ehsan Zia, Lessons Learned interview, 4/12/2016 Former Afghan minister for rural rehabilitation and development Page 2


"In terror model you kill the leader because he is against the government. In the CN (Counter Narcotics) model you cant kill the leader as he is part of the government patronage system." Former senior DEA official, Lessons Learned interview, 11/3/2016 Page 2


"Women are [a] very important constituency for her and she couldn’t sell making a bargain with the Taliban. If you want to be the first woman president you cannot leave any hint or doubt that you’re not the toughest person on national security" Barnett Rubin, Lessons Learned interview, 1/20/2015 Academic expert on Afghanistan and senior adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009-2013 Page 3


Unverified Sources


“Much of what we call Taliban activity was really tribal or it was rivalry or it was old feuding… I’d had this explained to me over and over and over again by tribal elders, you know, the old men who had come in with their long white beards and would sit and talk for an hour or two. They would laugh about some of the things that were happening. What they always said was you American soldiers don’t understand this, but you know, what they think is a Taliban act is really a feud going back more than one hundred years in that particular family.” Michael Metrinko interview, October 6, 2003, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training


"I always wonder what would have happened if they had found him that night or if they had asked our battalion to go and help, which never happened.” Maj. William Rodebaugh interview, February 23, 2010, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas


"Since 2002, the Taliban has enjoyed a sanctuary in Pakistan that has enabled recruitment, training, finance, equipping, and infiltrating of fighters. Pakistan’s ISI provides some operational support to the Taliban, though the level at which this assistance is authorized within the Pakistani government remains unclear.”

Marin Strmecki, Afghanistan at a Crossroads: Challenges, Opportunities and a Way Forward, August 17, 2006


"The turning point came at the end of 2005, beginning of 2006 when we finally woke up to the fact that there was an insurgency that could actually make us fail,” Bush administration official interview, September 23, 2014, Lessons Learned Project, SIGAR.


"improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to “the average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

Five years on, there is a multitude of good news... While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.

Office of the Secretary of Defense Writers Group, “Afghanistan: Five Years Later,” October 6, 2006


"is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get to a lot of people.” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Dorrance Smith, October 16, 2006 Afghan Papers


“We’d ask the Afghans why and they’d say, ‘Because the British came and they killed my grandfather and my great-grandfather"

Maj. Darryl Schroeder interview, November 26, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page


"Iraq was sucking up all the resources and all the time and attention, Afghanistan was nothing… It was a backwater second effort for everybody." Lt. Col. Richard Phillips interview, September 6, 2011, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas


"Fahim Khan was really upset about it until he learned which drug lab… It wasn't one of his, so he was okay with it" Russell Thaden interview, June 13, 2011, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page


"I had a number of villagers ask me, ‘Colonel, why are you eradicating something that your folks use and want?’ They could not understand that" Michael Winstead interview, November 7, 2013, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas


"We all said that we had numerous rumors and allegations to that effect that his brother is corrupt and a narco-trafficker but that we have never had clear evidence that one could take to court" Department of State cable, Kabul to Washington, “Karzai Dissatisfied: Worries about Newsweek; Plans More War Against Narcotics,” January 10, 2006 Richard Norland


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