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New Digital National Security Archive Document Collection Covers 20-Year U.S. War in Afghanistan

December 7, 2022

The National Security Archive, along with our scholarly partners at ProQuest, is publishing a timely collection on the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan. The new Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) collection, The Afghanistan War and the United States, 1998-2017, offers a trove of revealing documents focusing on the Bush-43 and Obama years. Largely the product of decades of Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) requests, these records from the State Department, CENTCOM, Defense Intelligence Agency, and other agencies explore the overall experience, as well as the problems that bedeviled the American-led occupation.

The result is a collection consisting of 2,261 documents totaling approximately 14,353 pages. While the bulk of the documentation was produced between 2001 and 2011, the collection also encompasses events during both the first Afghan Civil War (1992-1996) and the second Afghan Civil War (1996-2001). 

The records in this collection shed light on topics long hidden from the public, including but not limited to:

  • U.S.-Afghan diplomatic relations,
  • reconstruction and endemic corruption,
  •  the mismatch between Afghan realities and American intentions for a new centralized government and modernized army,
  • Pakistan’s strategy of taking U.S. aid while providing sanctuary to the Taliban,
  • narcotics and counternarcotics efforts,
  •  Al-Qaeda-Taliban relations,
  •  “mission creep,” as the counterterror effort against al-Qaeda morphed into a nation-building war against the Taliban, and
  •  U.S. military counterinsurgency strategy.

The collection also bookends the Digital National Security Archive’s first Afghanistan collection, Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1973–1990, and represents the culmination of over 35 years of work by the National Security Archive’s Afghanistan project. The project began in 1986 with dozens of classified U.S. documents that were seized by student revolutionaries during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and later published by the Iranian government. In the decades that followed, members of the Afghanistan project team sent thousands of FOIA requests to help inform U.S. policy towards a country that has been central to some of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most important episodes. While the situation in Afghanistan has changed much over the decades, the challenges facing the Afghan project team have remained consistent: critical documentation on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and its central players remains shrouded in secrecy, while U.S. agencies have denied many of the Archive’s FOIA requests for dubious reasons.

To learn more about DNSA, and how to get a free trial subscription, visit our website.

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