Excerpts from a new book allege that former President Barack Obama lied when he announced in December of 2014 that the United States’ war with Afghanistan had reached a “conclusion.”
In the book “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War,” set to be released at the end of this month, author Craig Whitlock outlines statements from Obama in late 2014 suggesting the war had reached a conclusion and pointed out that a military ceremony directed by the former president did not mark the end of the conflict.
“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,” Obama said in a statement in 2014, adding that the day marked “a milestone for our country.”
However, as Whitlock writes in the book, the war was not over and would continue to rage on for almost 7 years.
“In fact, the war was nowhere near a conclusion, ‘responsible’ or otherwise, and U.S. troops would fight and die in combat in Afghanistan for many years to come,” Whitlock wrote. “The baldfaced claims to the contrary ranked among the most egregious deceptions and lies that U.S. leaders spread during two decades of warfare.”
Whitlock notes that Obama was aware the American public had grown tired of the war in Afghanistan and says he “conjured up an illusion” in order to make it appear that combat in the region was over but deceptively carved out caveats regarding the roles of the troops who remained.
“As the flag came down during the December 2014 ceremony in Kabul, Obama’s commanders emphasized that the Afghan army and police would take full responsibility for their country’s security from that point forward, with U.S. and NATO forces restricted to “noncombat” roles as trainers and advisers,” Whitlock wrote.
“But the Pentagon carved out numerous exceptions that, in practice, made the distinctions almost meaningless,” he continued. “In the skies, U.S. fighters, bombers, helicopters and drones continued to fly air combat missions against Taliban forces. In 2015 and 2016, the U.S. military launched missiles and bombs on 2,284 occasions, a decline from previous years but still an average of more than three times a day.”
Whitlock also writes about several examples of American military casualties following Obama’s announcement and points out that the president at one point halted the withdrawal of troops while maintaining that the military he commands were still “spectators in the fight.”
Obama said in the White House’s Roosevelt Room in 2015 that the combat mission in Afghanistan was “over” and that Americans were not involved in “major ground combat” in the country.
“To the troops, the distinction made no difference,” Whitlock wrote. “To them, Afghanistan was a combat zone. They all carried weapons. They all earned combat pay. They were awarded combat decorations. More would die.”
President Biden in April pushed back former President Donald Trump’s deadline for a U.S. military withdrawal from May to Sept. 11, which was later bumped up further to the end of this month. The withdrawal began in May; by early July, the situation was rapidly deteriorating: The Pentagon on July 9 detailed “concerning advancement” by the Taliban in the wake of the withdrawal.
Two weeks later, the Pentagon said the withdrawal was about 95% finished while admitting the Taliban appeared to have “strategic momentum.”
Fox News confirmed on Thursday that the U.S. military will help evacuate Americans from the embassy in Kabul as the security situation deteriorates across Afghanistan.
Lucas Y. Tomlinson contributed to this report