Leaked Report

The War Logs: Rules of engagement in Afghanistan

The largest leaked military report in intelligence history exposes alarming truths about the war in Afghanistan.

THE BLEAK REALITY of the war in Afghanistan has been brought into sharp relief following what has been called “the biggest leak of military documents in intelligence history.”

Over 92,000 previously classified military documents from US forces, know as The War Logs, were obtained by Wikileaks and published on Sunday.

Wikileaks, a whistle-blowing organisation originally based in Sweden, obtained the documents from an unidentified source and forwarded them to three publications: The Guardian, The New York Times , and Der Spiegel.

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, said:

The nearest analogue is the Pentagon papers, which were released in the early 70′s. That exposed how the United States was prosecuting the war in Vietnam, that was about 10,000 pages… This situation is different, in that it’s not just more material and being pushed to a bigger audience and much sooner -  but rather people can give back; so people around the world who are reading this are able to comment on it and put it in context and understand the full situation. That is not something that has previously occurred and that is something that can only be brought about as a result of the internet.

The contents of the reports show that the situation in Afghanistan (on which the United States has spent almost $300bn to date) is far graver than official accounts portray. It also outlines that the threat from insurgents, most notably the Taliban, are formidable.

The reporting has been damned by US military. The New York Times quotes General James L. Jones, the White House national security adviser, as saying that he “strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”

The incident comes hot on the heels of a recent blow to US war confidence following the sacking of Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal after he made disparaging remarks about the US government’s handling of the situation in Rolling Stone magazine.

Some of the more alarming mistakes recorded in the log, which covers the war from the periods of January 2004 to December 2009, include details of how:

  • French troops opened fire a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight
  • Up to 15 people died when a US patrol machine-gunned a bus
  • Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in a suspected revenge attack in 2007
  • UK troops were involved in four civilian shootings  in Kabul in the space of a month in October-November 2007, which led to in the death of the son of an Afghan general

More general points about how the war is being run also became clear in the report:

The Taliban are gaining strength

The Taliban are said to be at their strongest since 2001. They have also begun to use portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft – which were very successfully used by the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet forces in the 1980′s.

Secret “capture to kill” missions have led to civilian deaths

Task Force 373, a secret US unit of army and navy special forces, has been engaged on missions to “capture or kill” about 70 top insurgents. Mistakes made during these missions have resulted in some civilian deaths. Targets who have been captured were interned without trial.

Increased drone aircraft deployment

“Reaper” drone aircraft, described by a former US Air Force commander as having “a true hunter-killer role”, are increasingly being used.

Unmanned aircraft, controlled by army forces in Nevada, can display notoriously crude target capabilities – which have resulted in civilian deaths.

CIA have expanded paramilitary operations

Increased paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan include ambushes, airstrikes and night raids by the CIA.

Civilian casualties caused by Taliban and Nato forces have gone unreported

Taliban forces have escalated the scale of deadly roadside bombing campaigns, many of which have gone unreported. Nato mistakes have also led to deaths of innocent bystanders.

More than 2,000 civilians to date have been killed in such attacks.

Pakistan and Iran are suspected of fuelling the insurgency

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency is suspected by the US as having armed, trained and financed the Taliban since 2004. Iran is also suspected of having involvement in the training and financing of Taliban insurgents, however US forces appear to be unclear about whether the possible assistance would be coming from the Iranian government or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Who are Wikileaks?

Wikileaks, the whistle-blowing site responsible for releasing the information, was launched in 2006. Wikileaks says that it was established by Chinese dissidents, journalists, and mathematicians.

The report is available here.

Watch Julian Assange speaking at a press conference here.

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