by Julie Kelly
The whistleblower, speaking to internal investigators, pulled no punches in his assessment of the government’s mishandling of the war in Afghanistan.
“As intelligence makes its way up higher, it gets consolidated and really watered down, it gets politicized,” he explained. “It gets politicized because once policymakers get their hands on it . . . they put their twist on it. The policy decisions and the operational decisions, I don’t think matched what the intelligence was saying.”
The 33-year decorated Army officer—with a lengthy career in military intelligence and service in both Afghanistan and Iraq—blasted the “rosy” scenarios promoted by top officials, including the White House, that contradicted what was actually happening on the ground.
“This sense that we are doing great permeates all the way up to the top,” he continued. “As a senior intel officer for many years, my assessments were not good. [I] said it was not at all going well. Never. We are basically fighting the wrong way. We are participating in conflict, we are not really here to win.”
The three-star general described rampant corruption that involved the allied coalition and American officials, including the U.S. embassy in Kabul; a narcotics racket that was “the worst it has ever been”; and a rotating U.S. command structure that refused to concede failure.
But the whistleblower reserved his harshest criticism for the government’s intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the agency he left the year before.
“What I learned was that the CIA was not sharing all of their information . . . the CIA has operational cables that don’t make it into intelligence reporting, which is incredibly irresponsible,” he told the interviewer. “I wanted to know about that disconnect.”
When he confronted an unidentified CIA official, the whistleblower was brushed off. “This is where the intelligence leadership is irresponsible for not sharing intelligence in and among themselves. There is a huge, huge political [bias] in this. The reason is that there is a political bias and the reason is there is a lack of courage in senior government officials to tell the truth.”
This whistleblower, however, is not some anonymous partisan operative now cheered by the Left and the media as a patriot. He is not the unnamed driving force to take down the president of the United States.
The person I just described is Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor who faces jail time for his plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Flynn’s stunning interview is among the hundreds of documents contained in the Washington Post’s recent exposé on the war in Afghanistan. The six-part series, authored by Craig Whitlock, is an infuriating account of how our top military, national security, and political leaders lied to us about the disastrous conflict that has taken the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. troops, wounded more than 20,000, and cost $1 trillion and counting. Last year was the deadliest since 2014; 23 American service members were killed in 2019. Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb earlier this month.
Nearly three-quarters of the total U.S. casualties in Afghanistan occurred on Barack Obama’s watch.
Whitlock’s series is the result of a lawsuit the Post filed against SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The agency, established by Congress in 2008, oversees a number of projects related to the ongoing war.
One program is called “Lessons Learned.” According to SIGAR’s website, “The goal of the program is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of current and future reconstruction efforts through comprehensive, evidence-based analysis of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan since 2001.”
The interviews and documents produced by “Lessons Learned” comprise the trove of material that Whitlock cites throughout his investigation. Officials from three administrations, the Afghan government, and coalition forces participated in the project.
“The Lessons Learned interviews contradict years of public statements by presidents, generals and diplomats,” Whitlock wrote. “The interviews make clear that officials issued rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hid unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. Several of those interviewed described explicit efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public and a culture of willful ignorance, where bad news and critiques were unwelcome.”
That broad assessment is confirmed by Flynn’s November 2015 interview. In fact, the Post’s effort to obtain SIGAR’s materials was prompted by Flynn’s involvement in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Flynn had been forced out as Barack Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after clashing with his then-boss, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Flynn riled the Obama White House with his public criticism of how poorly the intelligence community approached the Afghan war.
After he left the administration in 2014, Flynn became an enemy of Obama loyalists. Flynn was the first unwitting victim in the Russian collusion scheme, targeted by the same informant, Stefan Halper, who made contact with Trump campaign associates in 2016.
He joined Team Trump in early 2016 and was rumored as Trump’s running mate. During his appearance at the Republican National Convention, Flynn said Hillary Clinton jeopardized national security by using a private email server when she was secretary of state. The comment led to chants of “lock her up!” by conventioneers.
“If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today,” Flynn roared from the convention stage on July 18, 2016.
Two weeks later, Barack Obama’s FBI, led by James Comey, opened up an investigation into Flynn for colluding with the Russians to interfere in the presidential election.
In August 2016, the Post, acting on a “tip” about Flynn’s unpublished interview, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to SIGAR asking for the transcript. The agency refused.
The Post continued to fight SIGAR as Flynn was appointed then removed as Trump’s first national security advisor amid the disclosure of Flynn’s classified conversations with the Russian ambassador, details of which had been illegally leaked then published—ironically—by the Washington Post in early 2017. (In one court filing, Flynn’s lawyer accused Clapper of telling a Post reporter to “take the kill shot” on Flynn in January 2017.)
But when the Post finally received Flynn’s interview in December 2017, the paper did not publish the transcript. I asked why and Whitlock replied in an email: “The Post‘s editors wanted to publish all the interviews at the same time in order to provide a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the war in Afghanistan,” Whitlock told me. “If SIGAR had acted more quickly, we would have published all of the Afghanistan Papers much earlier.”
Something else happened in December 2017: Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to federal investigators after Comey’s FBI agents ambushed him in the White House a few days after Trump took office. One can only wonder what the public case against Flynn would have looked like had the Post published his harsh assessment of the same people—Clapper, Obama, and CIA Director John Brennan—attempting to sabotage the decorated Army veteran. (In their first meeting, Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn. Now we know why.)
As the Trump impeachment drama continues to slowly unfold on Capitol Hill, the “whistleblower” in that case enjoys hero-martyr status on the Left and in the news media. No reporter is trying to track him down and force him to answer questions about his political ties; on the contrary, anyone who mentions the name of the suspected “whistleblower” is condemned and falsely accused of breaking the law.
Flynn has enjoyed no such treatment. He awaits sentencing from a federal judge, more than two years after his plea agreement and despite proven corruption in the FBI’s case against the Trump campaign.
Further, considering the revelations in Whitlock’s series (American Greatness will continue to cover it, by the way), it turns out Flynn was right. His first-hand account, unlike the hearsay accusations made by the Ukrainegate “whistleblower,” shows legitimate threats to national security, political decisions by U.S. leaders that involve another country, and the self-serving interests of a presidential administration at the expense of the public good.
“From ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Flynn said. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why do I feel like we are losing?”
Those are the informed revelations of a true, and brave, whistleblower.
– – –
Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.
Background Photo “Department of Justice Building” by Tony Webster. CC BY 2.0.