At first, many officials in Washington found it hard to believe the Taliban could present a strategic danger. Even some military leaders in the field underestimated the Taliban and thought that, while it might control pockets of rural territory, it posed no threat to the government in Kabul. “We thought the Taliban’s capability was greatly reduced,” then-Brig. Gen. Bernard Champoux, deputy commander of a U.S. military task force from 2004 to 2005, said in an Army oral-history interview.
Paul Toolan, a Special Forces captain who served in Helmand province in 2005, said senior U.S. officials mistakenly viewed the war as a peacekeeping and reconstruction mission. He tried to explain to anyone who would listen that the fighting had intensified and the Taliban had bolstered its firepower.
But the Bush administration suppressed the internal warnings and put a shine on the war. In a December 2005 interview with CNN, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said things were going so well that the Pentagon would soon bring home roughly 10 percent of its forces in Afghanistan.
In the dispatch, Neumann expressed fear that popular support would wane if expectations weren’t managed. “I thought it was important to try to prepare the American public for that so that they wouldn’t be surprised and see everything as a reverse,” he said in his oral-history interview. But the public heard no such straight talk. In a visit to Afghanistan shortly after the ambassador sent his cable, Bush did not mention the rising violence or the resurgent Taliban. Instead, he touted improvements such as the establishment of democracy, a free press and schools for girls.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction