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tv   CNN Special Report  CNN  September 12, 2021 6:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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good afternoon. i'm speaking to you today from the same spot president george w. bush informed our nation that the united states military has begun strikes against al qaeda military camps and the taliban regime. >> we went to afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. we delivered justice to bin laden a decade ago. >> the united states conducted an operation that killed osama bin laden.
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>> that was ten years ago. think about that. >> we're going to stay until we have a deal or we have total victory. >> i learned the hard way there was never a good time to withdrawal u.s. forces. >> the taliban is continuing its offensive across afghanistan. tal taliban fighters have broken through the front line. >> the afghan army collapsed and the central government has fallen. >> panic fills the air in kabul. >> president biden said this is not going to be a saigon. guess what? there has been an explosion outside kabul airport. >> 170 afghans killed. >> 13 american troops killed. >> i stand scquarely behind my decision, it's time to end america's longest war. >> is it a mistake? >> i think it is, yeah. i think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad. >> i must see it's defeat for
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the united states. >> i think the president is right. enough is enough. >> what was all of this for? >> that has to be the question veterans are asking. >> two decades, more than $2 trillion, more than 6,000 american lives, more than 100,000 afghan lives later, the bipartisan debacle that was the war in afghanistan ended much like it began. >> we made a lot of mistakes. >> now, the real story what went wrong. >> before i go to my grave, i'll get that question answered. >> the mission. do you think the surge worked? the mistakes. >> i personally resented the war in iraq. >> the truth. >> corruption was one of the main reasons. >> and the lies. >> they just couldn't bring themselves to tell the truth .
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>> i always loved the physical fitness of being in the military. >> it was only probably after being in the military for awhile that i realized that i turned to physical fitness and things like biking that that was de facto mental health for me. to get on a bike and turn yourself inside out and not think about anything else is a key component of staying sane and healthy. my name is jason dempsey. i was a lieutenant colonial in the u.s. army. i was in afterghanistan for 200 2012 and '13 and for a brief assessment visit in 2014.
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what makes the problem of assessing our failure in afghanistan difficult is everyone can think they're doing their best. we are all left with great writeups and a pat on the back. we convinced ourselves we were doing well but never held anybody accountable for wait a minute, if everyone gets an a but the overall effort is still an f, who do we hold accountable? it means it's super easy for political leaders to say well, the military has this. congress has shown decade after decade they have no desire to own any kind of oversight of the way we're fighting. but there comes a point when the line between self-delusion and a lie is irrelevant if you're still pursuing something that doesn't make sense and you're inappropriately using the blood of the american people. we have to have these discussions, right? the lives of the american soldiers, even if it's just a
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dozen, it's got a god dam rounding error. those are lives. anyone that respects the military should absolutely be calling for a congressional hearing. it means you are absolutely questioning the generals so that we don't replicate what we did in this war for the next one. >> during the final weeks of america's withdrawal back in washington, i met with almost all of the wars chief architects. the commanders of the war in afghanistan for some tough questions and painful reflections on what went wrong on what they could have done differently and the lessons we must all learn from this 20-year war. what does it feel like to you when you hear about the withdrawal of u.s. service members and see what is going
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on? >> i have a number of feelings and have coursed through those feelings over the last few weeks. >> dan mcneil is a veteran of five foreign conflicts from vote vietnam from afghanistan where he led u.s. and collision forces first. in 2002. >> first, i am doing soul searching to determine is it fair to say i did my share of the task that i come up short in someway? secondly, what is the duty owed to those who came home not carrying their shields but on their shields and that's my problem i predict i'll likely have a difficult time the next time i go to arlington. and then there is a part of me that says we came up a little short.
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>> us leaving overnight and leaving the afghans, you know, the keys on the desk, i don't think any of us quite saw what unfolded this way. >> reporter: lieutenant general david spent 19 months as a senior commander in afghanistan where he established the first u.s. operational headquarters in kabul. >> one of the things head do badly is war termination. we're very good at lining the airplanes and chips and seizing the capital. then what? that's where in a lot of ways afghanistan presented us with an untrackable problem. >> did you agree with president biden's decision to withdrawal u.s. forces? >> yes, i did, jake. >> lieutenant general carl was feet away from impact on 9/11. he went on to serve two tours as general in afghanistan and again in longer in uniform ambassador. >> you were involved in training
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afghan police and troops. were you surprised how quickly the afghan security forces unfolded. >> there was former military, active military people from the intelligence community, pundits that had never been to afghanistan say they saw it coming and know very few saw this coming so fast. >> almost like watching a speeding train go by and wondering if it's going to stop or not. >> general david come mmanded troops from 2008 to 2009 under president's bush and obama. at that point, the deadliest period for american forces on record. >> jake, i'm emotionally invested in what happened in afghanistan for a couple reasons. first, i empathize with the people that live in that
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country. they have been at war in some form for the last 45 years. there are good people. i want them to have a better future. i'm also invested in the thousands of americans that have everyth served over there and have done i think an extraordinary job. i'm very, very worried about what i see. >> i think we didn't really know what winning was going to be from the start. >> eight years into the war, general stanley mccrystal took the reigns in afghanistan. his success hunting terrorists in iraq and transforming the top secret ops force led newly-elected president obama to believe that mccrystal would be the general to deliver his campaign promise of righting the ship in afghanistan. >> u.s. president joe biden will announce with drawl of u.s. troops from afghanistan. >> president biden says the last
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troops will leave afghanistan by september 11th on the 20th anniversary of the attack. >> how did you first hear of president biden's plans to withdrawal all u.s. service members? >> i showed him the news. >> what was his response? >> i was not surprised. president biden was in a very difficult position. every leader is faced with three options. you either do more, do less or do about the same. you muddle along. it was always safest like vietnam to do the middle. president biden's decision to pull everyone out, i didn't agree with it but there was a courage to it because he knows that he is going to be held responsible by some people, particularly his political opponents. >> there is going to be a stain on this president, and i think he's going to have blood on his hands for what they did. >> this is a sight i honestly thought i would never see, scores of taliban fighters and just behind us, the u.s. embassy
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compound. >> i believe we are going to regret this decision to withdrawal. >> general david petraeus, the general behind the surge in iraq come manded the war in afghanisn peaking at 100,000 american forces in 2011. >> i remember the day that i heard of the decision to withdrawal our forces and in someways, sort of was in a little bit of disbelief, first of all, i didn't think it was not sustainable to have 3500 american troops given that we've not had a battle field casualty in a year and the cost is quite sustainable. >> but then of course, it is about the loss, the sacrifice, all that we have done together with collision partners and together with our afghan partners, shoulder to shoulder
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[speaking foreign language] as it's said. >> you think we're going to have to go back? >> i don't know if we'll have to go back or not, but there are plenty of people around washington who experience the withdrawal from iraq and requirement to go back there is plenty of experience in this town if we have to. >> in 2011, general john allen, the first marine to command a theater of war was tasked withdrawing down u.s. troop levels while transitioning afghans into the lead for all combat operations. >> we've heard stories about the taliban telling villagers to marry off their daughters even very young girls. >> uh-huh. >> we shouldn't be surprised at that. that's not in their dna to change. the way they inflected what the afghan women called darkness within them before we were attacked in 2001, we should not expect it will be any different. >> we've heard disgust by the biden administration that there was basically a choice.
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it was either withdrawal or increase troop levels in afghanistan. >> i think there was another alternative. >> general joseph dunford nicknamed fighter joe took command in afghanistan in 2013 and went on to serve as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under presidents obama and trump. >> with a capable counterterrorism force around 4,000 u.s. forces, obviously accompanied by nay to allies we could continue to address our count terrorism interest. >> the argument against that is that that's just managing a stalemate in perpetuity. what would you say to that krit sa -- kcriticism? >> i didn't see a point where we would have sustainable afghan forces, a thriving democracy and thriving economy in afghanistan. i viewed our presence in afghanistan as a term insurance policy. when you stop paying the
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premium, you stop mitigating the risk of bad things happening. >> beyond the general's sobering admission that 20 years of war in the most powerful military in the world could have failed to prevent the taliban from recapturing kabul with hardly a shot fired. >> i have a real sense of tragedy for the afghan people. i think the taliban regime will be hard on so many afghans. that hurts. the other emotion on our effort is that in my entire experience, i never saw people there trying to screw it up. i saw good people with good intentions working hard but i don't think we did very well. [ gunshots ]. >> we made a lot of mistakes that we've made in prior efforts like vietnam and others and i
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find that sad, as well. we could have done better. >> what mistakes did we make that we had previously made? >> you could start with the idea that we didn't understand the problem. the complexities of the environment i think weren't appreciated. we went for what we felt would work quickly over what would have likely worked over the longer term. >> complexities that cause one top national security official to say privately quote we didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. did you ever think that almost 20 years later we would still be there? >> i don't think any of us did. that's another place where i think we could have done better. i don't think we sat around a table ever and talked about where is this going to be in 20 years? in fact, early in the time that i was there, we were instructed not to build anything that
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looked permanent. keep everything plywood and canvass so we wouldn't give anyone the impression we were coming there to stay. >> but stay we did. for longer than any country before us. and for potentially worse results. and as u.s. troops left, the people that they fought coming in, the taliban resumed control of the country. the question we saw to answer is w why. >> being fired. >> up next, we got to take care of this the right way. >> how the good war became america's forever war.
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a felt a sense of relief but a thin icing of relief on a huge cake of disappointment.
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i'm brett sheets, i'm originally from camp hill, pennsylvania and served in afghanistan 2003 to 2004. when we went over to afghanistan, which was end of the summer in 2003, we were already in iraq and there was a weird sense of whoa, i thought i was going into the main effort and now it's obvious i'm not. i think after a couple months, i realized we don't seem to have a target list. nation building was the vast majority of what we did in afghanistan. i realized unless something major changed, that this was not going to work out. the amount of troops, the amount of equipment, the amount of money you would need to be able to stabilize an entire country like afghanistan is so huge that some people would say there is no way we could do it period but i would definitely tell you there is no way we could do it
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while fighting a war in iraq. i knew we were in deep trouble. >> usa! usa! usa! >> a top the rubble in new york city after america was attacked, george w. bush vowed the united states would avenge the nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11. >> i can hear you the rest of the world hears you and the people -- [ cheers ] -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon. [ cheers ] >> with ground szero still smoldering, the commander in chief ordered the united states military to launch the opening salvo of america's war in afghanistan. >> your objectives are clear. your goal is just. you have my full confidence and you will have every tool you
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need to carry out your duty. >> the taliban were routed in a matter of really weeks so i thought that was an exceptionally well run campaign. the u.s. was able to play to the advantages and special forces and air power and precision strikes. >> there was units up in the hills place looking for terrorists. >> what did you think your mission was? >> mr. rumsfeld made it very clear you are to pursue with the intent to kill or capture terrorists and then you're to build an afghan national army. >> do you ever look back and wonder after defeating the taliban whether it might have made more sense just to declare victory and leave? >> no. you can't just go in and leave. otherwise all you're doing is setting the stage for either
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going back to as bad as it was before or even worse. >> afghanistan was the war that there was worldwide support for. there was goodwill for it in a way. nato invoked the article so that all members were behind to help the united states for the first and only time in history. >> the counsel agreed that an armed attack against one or more of the allies in europe or north america shall be considered an attack against them all. >> what could have been done differently with the benefit of 20 years of experience? >> sure. i thought about it a lot. right after the 9/11 attacks, i would have made a decision inside the u.s. government to do nothing substantive for a year. what i mean by nothing, no bombing, no strikes, et cetera. i would have gone around the world as the aggrieved party and build up a firm collision for what auought we do about al qae?
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i would have done a mass effort to train americans in arabic and other languages to get ourselves ready to do something we knew would be very, very difficult. >> somebody answer him. >> i don't think of any president that would just okay, let's take a year and wouldn't be impeached. >> i mean, the blood loss was so strong. >> i freely admit it. i know it would have been almost impossible case to make but i still think that's what we should have done. >> could it have been done differently and moref effectively? sure. however, i think at that time that was the only decision president bush could have made. the american people i think expected retaliation. quickly. >> let's go. let's go. >> i was at a dinner in washington here with several senators in about 2007 and senior intelligence analyst was at that dinner and the
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intelligence analyst said to the senators, senators you know we've won this war twice already. we won it the first time at the end of the campaign in the fall of 2001. we won it a second time in 2004, happened to be during myer era. >> this is based on the constitution of afghanistan and in respect of the constitution of afghanistan. >> outside of the military offensive, there were early successes in afghanistan trying to rebuild a country devastated by decades of war including the first direct democratic election in the country's history. >> i am very, very happy because now i'm sure we will have a good government and a future and now i can make my future, i can make my life by myself. >> all those people holding up their finger showing the die, showing they had voted, how did that feel? >> i mean , nobody really knew
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what would happen that day. the taliban had been threatening to blow up polling stations and kill people in voting lines. it was a relatively peaceful day. more than half a million people voted. it felt good we were able to put our weight behind something that would be so impactful. >> getting president bush and congress to provide the investments needed to build on these early successes in afghanistan, well, that would prove nearly impossible as attention for the war in afghanistan had already shifted to a new war, an elective war in iraq, and this according to many throughout the military re redirected critical focus and personnel and equipment away from afghanistan. resources that could have saved lives and potentially changed the outcome of the war itself. >> i accept the fact i was an economy of force and look for ways to use what i had to get to where i thought they wanted us
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to go. >> the white house was so focused on iraq that according to a memo from secretary rumsfeld obtained by the national security archive, president bush did not even know who his own commander was. rumsfeld wrote quote he said who is general mcneil? i said he is the general in charge of afghanistan. he said well, i don't need to meet with him. who is general mcneil? he's this man. the man who was fighting to stabilize afghanistan while his bosses were fix ated on over throwing a different regime in iraq. >> the essence of your question is did iraq consume resources that could have been applied in afghanistan in the answer to that is just too obvious. >> you're saying that you didn't have everything you needed. >> that's correct. >> don't forget us if iraq happens. >> the opening stages of the disarmament of the iraqi regime have begun.
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>> the chain reaction repercussions for not having what was needed in afghanistan proved at times deadly. >> doesn't that look like fun? go army. >> since many of the military's helicopters were sent to the front lines in iraq many out posts in eastern afghanistan were placed in vulnerable positions at the bottom of mountains for easier resupply by road. >> we're constantly on observation. >> positions made more vulnerable by their low troop numbers over matched by the growing number of insurgents. [ gunshots ]. >> do you think that in retrospect, it was a mistake to go to war in two different places at the same time? >> certainly, the war in iraq took away focus from afghanistan. >> it was still occurring by the time i went back as a commander. >> general mcneil returneded to afghanistan in 2007 to serve as commander of the nato led
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forces. but this time he finally got that meeting with the president. >> it's just he and i sitting in the oval office and i had not been expecting this. i expected him to say here is what i would like you to be able to do, but he said what do you think you can do? i said well, i've got the europeans outside of their wires and they'll get a little more involved in patrolling and being out among the afghan people. that will be good enough. that is just about the way he responded. >> what does that mean, good enough? >> i never tried to define that. after that, he said and here is another thing, i want you to always tell me exactly what you need. tell me exactly what you need. you're not going to get it. because i got to take care of this iraq thing. >> i personally resented the war in iraq. >> when lieutenant general ba are, no arrived in 2003, he had
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57,000 fewer troops in afghanistan than were in iraq. 57,000. the following year, that gap doubled to about 115,000. >> you had a v 8 engine in iraq tuned up and had something much less in afghanistan so everything was harder. >> here is an example. summer 2009, we have a horrible problem with i'mmp vised explose devices, iuds and mines. we have a total of three what are called route clearance companies to open up routes. in iraq at the same time with far less incidents at that point with iieds and mines there are some 90 route clearance companies and that didn't change until there was a large surge approved by the obama
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administration. >> eight years. you have a taliban which has generally a safe haven in the frontier provinces and triable areas in pakistan. they become resurgent and eight years we don't grow fast enough and well enough capabilities of the government in afghanistan and the army and there you are. we're continuing a war. >> they actually came pretty close to targeting cheney. >> a suicide bomber detonated himself. >> the taliban version was the true one and the u.s. military version was the lie. >> that's right. argan oil plus kera-system 97% humidity protection up to 3 days sleek fructis sleek & shine number one on sleek by garnier, naturally!
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what we were doing in afghanistan fundamentally was we were building a military for a nation that did not exist. they say the clie hinese milita has been funded by a billionaire to rebuild louisville, kentucky with all the best intentions in the world. let me take over your police force and reshape your city in a better image, do you think the citizens of louisville, kentucky will be one maybe i don't believe them and two, how can i rob these dipshits of all their money? you saw a ton of that with what we were doing. the reality is all these folks were working on networks whether
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triable, network, that kept them alive for decades. all of us walk in and start throwing billions of dollars of cash around and so of course, you're going to start seeing some predatory action. we were feeding in instead of sitting back and talk about wait a minute, who is this guy's real chain of command? who does he really listen to? if you fight a war over 20 years by definition, it's not going in the right direction. >> in 2016 a reporter for "the washington post" received a tip about a little known government report for the war in afghanistan known as the lessons learned project led by special inspector general. >> it's fact versus fantasy. this is this problem we
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identified early on, this older mendacity. there was this exaggeration after exaggeration of what we accomplished. >> after a court battle to obtain the hundreds of secret interviews conducted by his team, "the washington post" won and whitlock published the findings in a series of reports known as the afghanistan papers later expanded into a book. what these interviews and the project revealed he says was a far different history of the war in afghanistan than the one the american people had been told. >> the non-watered down version is it is much worse than you thought in afghanistan. >> freedom is taking hold in afgha afghanistan. >> we're winning but the war has not yet been won. >> do you think that all the public officials saying positive things about the war were lying,
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were diluted, were hoping that it would get better? >> sometimes, sure. i think they were optimistic but as the war went on and it became clear that bush's strikeategy wasn't working, the pronouncements became less excusable. they couldn't bring themselves to tell the truth and on september 6s, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks carl igave an interview to nbc news and asked how the war is going. he starts out by saying. >> we are winning but also say we have not yet won. >> two weeks earlier, there was a classified diplomatic from the u.s. ambassador in afghanistan back to washington, that cable started off saying we're not winning, right? it gives a very possesessimisti account saying the public needs to brace itself it will get
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worse. >> how do you feel looking back now at those remarks? >> so much of it has to do with the context at the time. 2006 tactically look at the battle field and see some worrisome signs but you're also seeing progress at that point with the afghan government, you're seeing more international support coming our way and so that kind of comment at the time that we are winning yes, you can say at that moment. >> much work still needs to be done here but the enemy in afghanistan, they will fail. >> general, did you ever feel under either the bush administration or the obama administration any pressure to publicly convey a rosey roseyer
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than the war on the ground. >> no, you may unwittingly tend to emphasize short term progress that you're making without giving due diligence to the longer term problems that are on the horizon. >> the reality was that five years into the war the horizon was not looking good. the taliban were gaining strength. and in early 2007 carried out a suicide bomb attack killing 23 people. and narrowly missing its intended target. >> so the end of february 2007, vice president dick cheney made an unannounced trip to the region because things weren't going well in afghanistan. late in the morning there is taliban suicide attack that drives a toyota corolla to the front of the base and sees suvs coming out of the base and blows himself up and kills 23 people. the taliban goes online and
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calls the journalists to claim this was a suicide attack intended to target dick cheney. immediately, the u.s. military denies this. >> it was completely coincidental that he was here at the same time this attack occurred. >> where it had leaked out about his travel plans in that they actually came pretty close to targeting cheney when he was planning to leave. they missed him by about 30 minutes. >> that's remarkable that the taliban version was the true one and the u.s. version was the lie. >> that's right. >> actually the strength of the taliban in afghanistan. >> i'm not sure it says anything because you've got an isolated attack. >> the facts boar out just the opposite. and the years preceding the violence, road side bombs more than doubled. suicide attacks had risen at least five fold. meanwhile, some government
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officials up and down the ranks were painting a much sunnier picture. >> impressed by the progress gr your country is making. >> you ought to applaud the president. we ought to applaud the s secretary of defense. we have liberated afghanistan. >> their descriptions of the war seemed to ignore the rising taliban insurgency and the chronic longer term problems standing in the way of genuine progress in afghanistan. starting with its neighbor to the east. >> you know this? no, no, these are tough issues. >> was pakistan our enemy? >> no but pakistan was not our friend. the things they were doing were simultaneously supportive and d d supporting the taliban almost
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impossible. >> the fact that ten years into the conflict that we were finally finding bin laden which is a big pakistan military city should tell us something about how good a friend pakistan was. >> i think it really comes down to the united states never really fundamentally understood afghanistan and what made it tick and it didn't understand the motivations of the taliban and where they were gaining support from. >> support that was not only coming from pakistan. many afghans who may have not liked the taliban's harsh brand of justice saw them nevertheless as the lesser evil compared to the corrupt afghan government and its burgening military. >> there was a continuing problem with corruption in the army and that was discouragdisc >> i'll give you an example.
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one of the senior leaders made a deal with the chinese to buy boots for the afghan forces. that leader was from my understanding given a kick back and gave them to the soldiers and the boots didn't fall apart and didn't take care of his soldiers the way the boots were designed to do. that's critical because in my view, the confidence in the afghan people and government and i institutions was a source of strength of illness and we saw it various times, both. >> you quite literally wrote the book on counter insurgency nation building. did that work in afghanistan? ann what matters most. whether it's ensuring food arrives as fresh as when it departs. being first on the scene, when every second counts. or teaching biology without a lab. we are the leader in 5g. #1 in customer satisfaction. and a partner who includes 5g in every plan,
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i am army cam fptain and i served in afghanistan. we need to get to the people first before the taliban and we need to win their hearts and minds d that's how we are going to win this war. i thought okay, that was a unique strategy. i was in -- the problem is you show up with your team of 18 to 19 year olds, gung-ho patriots and -- we are going to drink some chai tea and we'll build
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this bridge and irrigate this farm and all in a while you will be attacked and ambushed. i got my weapon at the lone already. i am asking these people to trust me and i don't trust them. so many times the taliban used those tactics and betting, i need you to take out as many americans as you can during this meeting and you will go meet allah. then it becomes just between you and the people. that was frustrating for me. it starts to wear on my unit and me. we are losing our nation's blood and treasure. that was a hard pill to swallow. you train us to be fighters and asked us to be nation's builders and we are forcing it down their throat.
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they had us doing a job that we are not trained to do. that's where it was doomed. ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states, april 17, 2002, a room filled with cadets at the virginia military institute. president george bush announced a new phase in the war of afghanistan. peace will be achieved by helping afghanistan to develop their own stable government. peace will be achieved by helping afghanistan train and develop its own national army. peace will be achieved to an education system for boys and girls which works.
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it must been quite a challenge for americans who knew nothing of the culture to find themselves serving not just as soldiers but diplomats and nation builders and etc. the army during this period of time didn't have any counter certainty doctrine. i remember going down to lieutenant colonel and i said how did you get your unit move to counter strike operation to do insurgence across afghanistan. he looks at me and says easy sir, booksamillion.com. he was ordering books and figuring out on the ground while they were doing these missions.
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>> in 2006, troops trying to counter insurgency on their own. the u.s. updated counter insurgency guidance. a strategy that focused on less conventional warfare and more on securing the support of the population, ensuring aids and infrastructure and trying to win the trust of the people. >> you literally working on the books, the idea of naasian building. did it work in afghanistan? >> it did work, during the period we did have the resources to do that. the problem is in a situation like afghanistan, we do have to be prevailing if you will in the security realm because that's the foundation that allows you to do all of these other tasks.
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people say counter insurgence does not work. i disagree. we did counter insurgence in world war ii. we did it after the armatice. >> i think rural afghanistan, which is most of afghanistan does not work. the dissatisfaction with the government was a greater factor than fear of the taliban. they may dispense hard justice. >> the u.s. counter insurgency strategy in afghanistan failed. we now know there were many saw it failing as a strategy in realtime.
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the level of local knowledge that i don't have about my own hometown. not about his own hometown, led alone about afghan villages nestled in the hindo kush. >> somebody would come out with an a-k 47 and killed. almost every compound in afghanistan had an ak-47. if someone came in your living room and you had an ak-47, you may go and defend your family. we killed a lot of people who were defending heart and home. we created a tremendous amount of ill-will and fear in the af afghan people. >> most of the time we got the
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individual we were kuconducting the raid without firing a shot. but if you run that many raids, something is going to go bad. there were some horrible mistakes. >> mistakes meaning innocent civilians, wounded or killed. brown university watson institute for international public affairs mestimates more than 48,000 civilians lost their lives. 47,000, no matter what stories we told ourselves about why those mistakes happen, it's that number, not the battles the u.s. won or in schools that the u.s. built. that number may have ultimultimately mattered. >> i will never forget this one. the united states bombed a wedding party and i said okay, i
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am going to personally go down and offer my condolences to the families and the triable elders of this tribe and i went down there and spent three or four hours talking and yelling and listening and drinking tea and at the end of it, we had killed 20 members at this wedding party. one of the elders who lost four or five family members shook my hand. i said, do you think that would ever happen in the united states of america? i don't think so. >> how did it come to happen that we bombed a wedding party? what happened? >> we lost positive identification of the target and the weather and the altitude and mistook them for a group of fighters.
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any allegation to investigate and second we open up our investigation results to the united nation and the red cross and anybody wanted to come look ate. >> later of course found 47 people were killed at that wedding party. and year after year innocent civilians continue to lose their lives. year after year increasing the challenge to winning afghan hearts and minds. >> civilian casualties and the manner in which operations are k conducted has been a serious concern to the afghan people for a long, long time. >> coming up, we have a clear and focus goal. >> obama's surge. >> i spent more time thinking about it than anyone else.
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perhaps now would be a great time my name is richard brookshire, i was a sergeant, i served in afghanistan. how do i feel about obama's handling of afghanistan? >> you want to admire this
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person and i do in many ways. when i looked at his presidency and the choices he made -- i think obama was a liar. i think he misled people to believe in hope and change agenda specifically in afghanistan. >> the master mind of 9/11, osama bin laden is dead. >> they captured him, i remember the day it happened, nobody was reacting to the fact that osama bin laden got killed because we knew that's not why we were there anymore. it's kind of like when i started to fallout of love with obama. >> the death of osama bin laden's marks the most
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achievement to date. >> perhaps propaganda sense he has, all i saw was a lot of money being poured in a country that did not want us there. there are literally schools in brooklyn don't have books in the library. there are bread lines in this country right now. there are people who are facing evictions. what could that money would have done for the people who actually call this place home. >> help me god. >> america ninaugurated a new commander in chief. whose top foreign policy agenda was the 7-year-old war in afghanistan, to finish it and get out. >> i want the american people to understand that we have a clear and focus goal. disrupt, dismantle and defeat
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al-qaeda and afghanistan and prevent their return to either country in the future. that's a cause that could not be more just. >> a just cause complete with a new strategy and a new commander. general stanley mccrystal. >> he didn't talk in that mission statement much about if afghanistan is unstable and ungovernmentable and all. al-qaeda is not good enough of that success. so it became an implied requirement that says you got to create a sovereign afghanistan which could defend its own border and prevent the reemergence of al-qaeda safe haven inside. >> we have a new strategy, a new
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mission and a new ambassador. i believe new military leadership also is needed. >> mckernon spreads the words to other officers, looks like we have done too good of a job telling people how bad things are here. 2009 is going to be a tough year. there are the baseline problems of poverty and literacy and violence. that's not going to turn around quickly. >> so whether gates intended or not. there was a clear message sent out to other senior officers which was we don't want you to be pessimistic in public. >> secretary gates tells me go over and do a strategic assessment and tell me what you need to be effective. >> i came up with a number of
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conclusions, one, the situation is much worse than it was perceived in d.c. the staff came up with a conclusion that we need 40,000 people, to be a bridge to allow us to build up afghan forces over the next couple of years. mccrystal, 66 page assessment calling for a revived mission refocusing on biluilding a stab afghan military, a massive financial investment probably leaked. at the white house, some believed leaked intentionally to put new pressure on the new president. >> the last 48 hours was a bigger problem with obama. >> i was asked to meet with president obama. we got on air force one and we had an absolutely straightforward meeting.
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it was one of the wood shed moment and it was not. >> it was not. >> we didn't have a conversation -- i knew i didn't leak it and my people did not leak it. >> regardless of who leaked the assessment, there was a lot of skepticism in washington. perhaps the leading skeptic, then vice president joe biden. >> the usurge, i was posed to i. now what i did was, i spent a lot of time with the president trying to convince him as well. >> while all the focus on mccrystal's plan how troops to go, the question is how any number of troops can solve the problem in afghanistan. ambassador concluded they would not. in a classified diplomatic cable
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to secretary state clinton, he explained why. president kazai is not an adequate, strategic partner. >> they just did not see this war as we saw it. as we are talking to president karzai, i am with you as long as you are defining this problem as a war against terrorists. if that is war that's going to be fought on my territory, where you are bombing my villages when really the threat is across the border. i can't support you. yet, that conversation was lost. >> what was your reaction, and the statement you saw it was leaked? >> i was not aware of it.
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it was being written. it was sent to me from the chairman and i didn't agree with it. >> i think it was the strategic partner we had. the next 18 months will be desic -- >> it came with an expiration date. >> after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. >> i advised against it is withdrawal date but president obama asked me if i can support him. of course, he's a commander in chief and he's got perspective that i don't have. he believed that we could not have an open ended commitment. >> at the end of the day, did
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you think the surge worked? >> we did achieve some military results on the ground. but they were not to be lasting. >> in my view we did see improvement. that improvement is limited unless you can follow it with governance and economic development, otherwise, it's not sustainable. >> how did those other two parts go. >> predictli predictably harder. >> afghan security forces found themselves unable to maintain the recent territory gains. the influx of cash that had to accompany the increase of forces appeared to be backfire. >> u.s. officials would say we spent too much, too fast, we were the biggest drivers and corruption because we were throwing so much money at this country and people were going to put it in their pockets and severely undermine everything we
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are trying to accomplish. >> i didn't think it was going to be easy. just how hard of afghanistan really brings to mind o, okay, this strategy viable? >> by the time general mccrystal began questioning the viability of his own strategy, hef was no longer in charge. >> today i accepted general mccrystal resignation with considerable regret. also with certainty that it's the right thing for our mission. on the job for only a year, president obama fired mccrystal after a controversial magazine profile published unflattering and dismissive comments about obama and comments made by mccrystal and his close aide, ending a long and distinguished career. >> i probably spent more time thinking about it than anyone
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else. at the end of the day, president obama was put in an unattendable position and i put him there. from my command, a story came out perceived by many people would be almost a direct front to him as though you got a military leader who does not respect the commander in chief. >> was it tough to end your 34 year military career in that way? >> it's still tough. >> after replacing mccrystal with general petraeus -- >> we are committed to bring our war to a responsible enter. >> all four generals would struggle to end the war as obama had claimed he would. >> what was quite inter
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interesting -- >> good evening. >> in may of 2011, osama bin laden is killed. >> justice has been done. >> that would have been president obama's possibility of saying that mission is completed and began the withdrawal. >> it sounds to me that you are saying with the benefit of hindsight that you think we should have withdrawn after osama bin laden was killed. >> yes. >> that's an important question. >> had we left at any point over the past 20 years, there would have been residual risks. the assessment that al-qaeda would reconstitute and impose a threat. >> december 28th, 2014, it appears the president was ready to assume that risk. releasing a statement and announcing the conclusion of the war in afghanistan. in reality, that conclusion would not come for another seven
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years. >> when he claimed that there was an end to the combat mission, that just patently was not true. >> you had words of americans losing their lives in combat. >> it's kind of the lobster pot of analogy. easy to get into. hard to get out. w >> was the war in afghanistan ultimately a failure? and this. and definitely this. and yes to more bread. panera. live your yes. free delivery on our app. ♪ ♪ i know the best coffee spot in town. i can make a rustic cabin feel modern. i am a guidebook for guests. i can make an indoorsy person, outdoorsy. i give families a home, not just a place to stay.
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for these married marines, those disagreements include the decision to end the war in afghanistan. >> i understand why president biden made the announcement and as an officer support my comma commander in chief's decision, i did have a bit of concerns. >> today of disappointment. it's a terrible situation and we are literally just like -- peace out in the middle of the night. i got the keys in the car, you got it. bye. what is going on?
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yeah. >> dusty was a major in the marines and deployed twice to afghanistan. first in 2009 and again in 2011. katy cook who would become the first female blue angel pilot served in afghanistan in 2013. >> it sucks as a service member looking back to afghanistan and knowing that you gave the glimmer of hopes and now it's gone. it feels terrible. i think there is going to be l of service members who are thinking was it worth it? i dedicated my life to this cause. and it's worse off than it was. >> was it worth it for the loss of life on any side? no. was it worth of what we kind of gain as an identity together? maybe so.
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i had no regrets. did people that we help, i have the marines around me. >> everything we did and all the money we spent and events people missed out on, all these things are intangible losses in addition to a lot of people sacrificed, was it worth it and i don't think the answer is yes. for better or worse, president biden will be remembered as commander in chief who ended the 20-year war in afghanistan. it was president trump who set the wheels to withdrawal in motion. >> my original instance was to pull out and historically i like
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following my instincts. >> i didn't see a clarity on president trump's strategy. it was a four year of period which we didn't have clarity to ourselves or the people we were fighting against or fighting with. >> the trump administration would strike a historic deal with the taliban that excluded those the u.s. had been fighting alongside 20 years the afghan government. while many have argued the u.s. should have negotiated with the taliban years earlier, trump's deal may very well set the stage for both america's ultimate withdrawal and the taliban's take over. >> i inherited the deal president trump negotiated with the taliban. under his agreement, u.s. forces will be out of afghanistan by
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may 1, 2021. do you think that the trump administration agreement to bring peace to afghanistan was inevitably a road map to the taliban. >> she was appointed afghanistan's first female ambassador to the u.s. and served during the negotiations. >> when the conversations with the taliban started, it should have been not a two-segment negotiations, one with the u.s. taliban and the another one u.s. talking with the afghan government, it should have been more of trying to bring everyone together. >> that was a mistake, you think? >> that was a mistake. it gave them the platform and empowered them. it gave them the time.
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>> time. the agreement broke by the trump administration forced the release of 5,000 taliban prisoners, thousands who will later help toppled the afghan government. >> leaving the hard fought progress u.s. achieved in afghan society hanging in the ballots. >> there was a lot of good that was done. the afghan people especially in the city cherished what it's they have come to enjoy. women's life expectancy increased by nine years and jumped 28% for young men. child mortality dropped in half. >> yet the full cause of those gains have proven nearly i
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immeasurable. this is where the ne9/11 attack were planned and the training attackers conducted and we got rid of them and their leaders. i felt this was a mission of consequent for our country and a privilege to perform. >> in your view, was the war in afghanistan worth the cause? >> i am probably too emotional biassed to give a really good answer to that. >> it would be hard if i am a disinterested party to argue it was but in my heart i have a different conclusion, i think it
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was. if we step back now, i would say just because we didn't give the exact outcome we wanted, we should have tried, i think would be a mistake. >> what was the mission? >> to prevent al-qaida to attack from united states and afghanistan be a sanctuary and mitigate the risk of migration. i believe over the course of ten years that was achieved. we should not have confused the outcome by saying that we did that in a quick manner. >> would i like to have accomplish that mission with fewer young men and women having lost their lives and families suffering and casualties. no question about it. at the end of the day i am not willing to say it was not worthy. >> i think we had to retaliate
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in afghanistan. for the 20 years after that, had we done it the smartest and best way, probably not. probably a lot of things we could have done differently. >> my first impulse is to say yes, it was worth it. but i iam no longer certain of that. before i will go to my grave, i will have that question answered. >> if anyone would have said on the 12th of september of 2001, when we knew the attack had come from afghanistan, we are going to be there now from this point on for about 20 years and it's going to end with us leaving in taliban back in power, could you imagine the reaction of the american people? >> was the war in afghanistan
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ultimately a failure? >> the 20 years war in afghanistan was for the results that we have achieved were not worth the cause. . >> when we come back, the forever impact of america's forever war. >> i will never forget the lead ers that caused the people i love to die. >> to those generals lied to us? hey google. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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for the small percent of those voluntarily served and sacrificed and those who loved them. the impact of what they have experienced will linger long after the withdrawal. >> in terms of the emotions that the end of all this brings, i realized it's going to take a long time to process. i have been thinking and writing and going over afghanistan for so long and i am coming to the realization that i am not done still. it's going to be another six or nine or how many years. i am a little choked up because two of the guys i started my career with and served with, both of them committed suicides in the last month. you can't say it was about afghanistan.
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every suicide is a unique event. you can never say well, this is why but we have lost 30,000 of post veteran suicides. >> it's hard. when you get back. you lose friends, you know, to suicide. >> a new era. >> you survive all that or they go back again as their sixth dep deployment and they don't make it home from that one. >> coming home was a difficult process. you just had this experience of being ripped away from everything you knew and love and thrown in the middle of a war zone and middle of a country so different from your own.
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and, i just felt very isolated and trying to even articulate the difficulties of the transition. i am just getting my footing. it has been ten years since i got back. a lot of folks deal with post-traumatic stress because when they come back, they are still constantly on heighten alert. i found myself to be extremely short-tempered, my fuse was lightning fast and i realized something quickly was wrong. i went to therapy and outside of the military, it still angers this day that americans die for a war that seemingly had more aim. i will never forgive the leaders that caused people that i love to die. i love this country but this was a massive mistake.
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>> one of the fundamental question is, is defending your nation when called a fundamental responsibility as citizenship? if it's, it should not be just volunteers doing that. if you don't think being u.s. citizens entails answering the calls if the nation is attacked then we kind of lost something we always had as part of our history. >> when we go to war, every zip code should be at risk and every family should be at risk. the threshold to make decisions to go to war would be a little bit more responsibly arrived at. >> how do you do that? you think we should have a draft? >> i personally think we should. >> i know many of my peers would disagree. i think it's very dangerous to have a case where you have that part of service being done by a small percentage of people. >> one of the defining things of
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the last 20 years is the 1% sacrificing and serving and going through everything and the 99% not. and, whether that is sustainable. >> i fear it would not be. >> there were some heavy lifting going on from 2005 and to about 2011. very heavy lifting. because ultimately the 1% would say we are not doing this anymore. >> yep. >> it's almost like, looking at america. this is still an experiment and democracy. nothing is guaranteed. look at january the 6th. so far it held up beyond my expectations. >> we have some questions here if you will indulge me from a number of afghans. we read these questions to all
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of the commanders. the first one is from jason dempsey, retired army. if you could have done something differently as a commander, what would it be? >> i probably would have been far more in my place, my first time over there more had to be done outside the military. at that time the state department was taken only volunteers to go to afghanistan, it was not direct in anybody. i think we had to look at all of the mentions and put it in a footing. just like the military was. >> if you could have run the war independently, what would you have done differently? >> well, i would have tried to get the inputs right a heck a lot sooner after ten years we invaded the country. i would get the right concept
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and leaders. we squandered opportunities on which we may capitalized early on. >> john, mike fairfax, how do you explain we have been in afghanistan for 20 years? >> i think because we fought 21 years war. had we had people with a longer time horizon that we are seeing this is as marathon as opposed to seven months sprint on a deployment to include commanders who we rotated through. i think we would have a potentially different outcome because people could have some accountability for the decisions they made. katy cook, do you think the u.s. now perceived with greater strengths or weakness after involvement of afghanistan the past 20 years? >> sadly i think we are viewed with greater weakness. from 9/11 on, we sort of showed the world how long the dog's
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leash is. people learn that there was limits to our ability to do things. we learned it ourselves. >> up next, a collapse. >> they were ordered to surrendered and not to fight. >> who ordered them not to do that. or lines for family members, you'll get great value on america's most reliable 5g network. like 2 lines of unlimited for just $27.50 a line. only at t-mobile. the work is harder the sun is hotter the days are longer too but out west the ranch water tastes colder which makes it worth all that we do. lone river ranch water in 2016, i was working at the amazon warehouse when my brother passed away. and a couple of years later, my mother passed away. after taking care of them,
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themselves in the presidential palace. kabul airport is a state of chaos. >> i don't have words to describe the emotions, from guilt to anger and betrayal. >> who betrayed you? >> everyone. the afghan leadership, everyone. >> there is been an explosion outside the airport. >> 170 afghans killed. 13 american kids killed in this horrific attack. >> there was great surprise from the intelligence committee about how fast this collapse occurred. we should have maintain a military presence in kabul until the so-called mission was complete. i think that the biden administration's strategic choice about ending the u.s. mission in afghanistan was the correct one but poorly executed. >> we were all watching this
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peek which the district taken over. there was already the reality. so, what is surprising is the fact that military was resolved? the military is not strong. >> the u.s. has been talking about how great the development of the afghan military forces have been. >> afghan forces have full responsibility for security across the country. >> afghan will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. >> the military became more organized, better trained in the past 20 years they haves ever been. >> what they lacked was leadership. they were ordere d to signature
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r sign surrender. >> kabul told the afghan security forces not to fight. >> when you heard president ghani fled the country, did that surprise you? >> it was shocking. it was disappointing. >> the american military can provide training support but we could not give afghan an army a soul. only the people of afghanistan could do that. it was a failure. the afghan government remained extraordinary corrupt. >> corruption was one of the very main reasons of how things turned out. >> the afghan security force development been advanced
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considerably, afghan forces are better than we thought they were. they are better than they thought they were. >> the afghan commanders who make up that core never lost a battle against the taliban and they never will. >> general, there are a lot of americans who look at the collapse of the afghan military and think, did those generals lie to us ? >> no, they did not. you don't stand up as a young 21-year-old lieutenant and say troops, i think we got about 30% chance of taking that hill, follow me. no, glass half full. >> do thank you think one of the problems may also be that the incentive structure within the u.s. military is to be able to say that something has been achieved as opposed to
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acknowledging something cannot? >> it's very a valid point. yes, it's more unwitting. it's just the climate if we can get things done. that's something the military indeed needs to take a look at in our history of afghanistan. >> it's early to do a post mo momort momort mo mortum. the consistency and application ofobjectives, i think it's going to be lessons learned in all of thesis areas. >> these are not battles or fights of a decade much less a few years. this is a generational struggle with extremism and you have to keep at it. >> i think we still have ways to
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go as america to see things through the eyes of the people who live in that country. what do they want or don't want? instead of trying to instill or impose or westernize approach to an intervention. our ability to establish viable governments was just extraordinary hard. if i had anything where i am most self-critical on is the understanding or the appr appreciation of how difficult it would be. >> we missed osama bin laden. had we put a lot of ground troops in there, we probably would have gotten osama bin laden. point number two was when president bush made the faithful decision to invade iraq.
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>> much of our attention was diverted into iraq. the third inflection point was when we finally did kill osama bin laden, that would have been president obama's point to quickly try to draw down the military mission. there really was no clear political enstd state that lead to deep questions, was it worth it? what was it all about? >> what do you say to gold star parents or veterans who wonder if it was worth it? >> i would say to the families for what i have failed to do, i am so rrry. i did the best i could. >> why do you blame yourself? >> if this is as failure, i carry my share of it.
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>> what's your message to the u.s. veterans sitting at home watching these events and really having a tough time with it. what do you say to them? >> i would say you and your comrade, you helped us walk. so many people start to thinking differently, doing things differently. expanding their world view and treating their women better. it's not reversible. that progress would stay forever. and your sacrifices made that happen. >> for years now i have worn this bracelet on which etched the names of the eight soldiers that were killed in the battle that combat out post keitting in
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afghanistan, thompson, kurk, griffin, park, delegas, martin and mace. every one of them killed doing something helping, on the occasions when i am asked, did they die for nothing? i would say no. because beyond the achievements for the afghan people, the sacrifices the service members made are not contingent on victory. their selflessness exists onto itself. no service members enlist thinking the pentagon or the presidents never make mistakes. that's what makes their willingness to sacrifice all the more remarkable. now, whether our leaders and the decisions that they made are worthy of these men and women,
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♪ call one eight hundred, eight million ♪ these governors won't help speed the pandemic. i will use my power as president to get them out of the way. >> will is plan work? i will speak to the u.s. surgeon general murthy next. a key democrat objects progressive's big bill. but what? >> joe manchin and the man writing the bill, bernie sanders joins me to discuss next

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