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The Afghanistan Papers shake trust in military leaders

As military spouses, we are constantly asked to dip into a never-ending well of trust.

Trust that what our spouses are doing every day is of value to our nation. Trust that they will be safe. Trust that military leaders are making decisions for the right reasons and with the full weight of our lives in the balance.

What happens when that trust is broken?

For more than 18 years, the United States has been at war in Afghanistan. The recent revelations in The Afghanistan Papers bring into full view the possibility that our trust has been misplaced.

Based on the review of thousands of pages of interview notes and secret documents from U.S. generals, top civilians, and even Afghan officials, it is clear that three Presidential administrations’ worth of leaders mischaracterized and misled Americans about the direction and chance of success in Afghanistan.

While we can never know the true cost of the war in Afghanistan, we do know the grim statistics. According to Defense Department numbers more than 775,000 US troops have deployed to Afghanistan since 2001. As families, we know many have deployed repeatedly. 2,300 US troops died in Afghanistan. 20,589 US troops have been wounded in Afghanistan.

The immeasurable sacrifices render the revelations in the Afghanistan Papers all the more difficult to accept.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

At War With the Truth, The Washington Post

As a military spouse with at least a handful of years remaining on my husband’s military duty, I wonder how we move forward with a commitment to service. How do we trust history won’t repeat itself?

Frankly, it’s up to us.

We cannot remain silent. We must use our voices to demand that military leadership act with transparency and honesty to rebuild our trust. We must vote for politicians who will restore our faith in those making the ultimate decision about when to send our spouses into harm’s way.

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