“I know there’s an assertion out there of some sort of a coordinated lie over the course of, say, 18 years. I find that a bit of a stretch; more than a bit of a stretch, I find that a mischaracterization, from my own personal experience,” Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s chairman, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, The Hill reported.
The Washington Post last week released several articles claiming that former officials in the President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama administrations presented information that was altered to show progress in the war, which was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Post claimed it conducted more than 400 private anonymous interviews from officials who acknowledged a lack of strategy and progress in the conflict in private while simultaneously telling the public that the war was succeeding in an attempt to bolster political support.
But on Friday, Milley told reporters, “I don’t think anyone has died in vain … I could not look myself in the mirror. I couldn’t answer myself at two to three in the morning when my eyes pop open and see the dead roll in front of my eyes,” according to the Military Times.
“You’re looking at probably hundreds of general officers, State Department employees, CIA, the Department of Defense folks. I just don’t think that you can get that level of coordination to do that kind of deception,” he told reporters, adding that the notion that there being a “coordinated lie” over the past 18 years is a “mischaracterization.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told the press that Milley’s feelings are accurate.
“It’s not like this war was hiding somewhere,” Esper said on Friday before adding, “insinuation that there’s been this large scale conspiracy is to me just ridiculous,” the Military Times reported.
The war in Afghanistan, Milley told Task & Purpose, is still mired in a “strategic stalemate,” and neither the Taliban nor the Afghan government can defeat one another. He said the war will only end if the Afghan government and Taliban can settle on a peace agreement.
“So this is a very difficult, complicated situation,” Milley continued. “And at the base of it for the United States of America it has to do with our vital national security interest to protect our people. And our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have given their lives in Afghanistan have not given their lives in vain, in my view.”
The United States is still trying to hold peace talks with the Taliban.