Incredible piece by James Risen over at The Intercept. Link at bottom.
Just a few excerpts. It was tough to choose; Risen's article is so jammed pack of information that you aren't likely to hear from the usual sources, right or left.
The U.S. launched more than 13,000 drone strikes in Afghanistan between 2015 and 2020, killing up to 10,000 people, according to statistics kept by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The CIA, relying on cellphone numbers to find, fix, and finish its alleged enemies, often launched its Hellfire missiles at the wrong targets or at targets standing amid groups of civilians.
The practice devastated Afghan villages, yet the U.S. refused to keep track of civilian casualties from drone strikes. Instead, officials insisted that each strike had hit its intended target, while ignoring the claims of villagers that the missiles had killed a tribal chief or decimated a meeting of village elders.
Along with drone strikes came “night raids,” in which U.S. and Afghan forces would burst into a home in the middle of the night and kill or capture those inside, breeding further resentment. The raids were so deeply unpopular that they sometimes led an entire village to switch its allegiance to the Taliban. What was worse, the U.S. military and the CIA failed for years to fully grasp the degree to which their airstrikes and night raids were being manipulated by Afghans who fed them false information to convince the Americans to launch raids against their local rivals or have those rivals carted off to Guantánamo.
After the initial invasion that ousted the Taliban, the U.S. shifted most of its military and intelligence resources from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003. The Bush administration believed that Iraq was a more important theater of war than Afghanistan and falsely thought that the war in Afghanistan was over.
The shift of American resources by the Bush administration to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 was the greatest military miscalculation of the entire war in Afghanistan. While the U.S. was distracted by Iraq, the Taliban, which had been all but defeated and dispersed, recovered, and regained strength.
Another fundamental miscalculation involved Pakistan. In the 1980s, the CIA had worked with Pakistan’s intelligence service to support the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan. But following the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Taliban leadership found sanctuary in Pakistan. The Taliban were able to reorganize and recruit new forces from among the more than one million, mainly Pashtun, Afghan refugees on Pakistan’s side of the Durand Line, the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan established by the British at the end of the 19th century.
Pakistan’s intelligence and military services played a double game with the U.S. throughout the American war in Afghanistan. For years, Pakistan provided America with logistical support, allowing supplies for U.S. forces in landlocked Afghanistan to be transported through its territory. It also sometimes provided critical intelligence on Al Qaeda and terrorism suspects believed to be traversing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yet many officers in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence were Islamists who were sympathetic to the Pashtuns and the Taliban, and had a long history of support for related Pashtun groups like the Haqqani network, whose founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, had been on the CIA payroll during the 1980s campaign against the Soviet occupation.