July 26th, 2010
12:03 PM ET

What leaked documents are telling us about Afghan war

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange talks to Larry King about the 90,000 documents his site recently made public reportedly detailing U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan.  Don’t miss 'Larry King Live' at 9 p.m. ET Monday on CNN.

[Update: 21:25] Ellsberg: 92,000 documents won't convey reason for Afghan War

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been drawing comparisons to the Vietnam War for many years, and WikiLeaks' publication of more than 90,000 government documents about the war in Afghanistan will give more credence to that comparison. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower responsible for leaking the U.S. government's top-secret study on the Vietnam War in 1971, says that like the Pentagon Papers, these documents will not justify the ongoing war.

"I think what the Pentagon Papers showed with 7,000 pages was that there was a lack of any good reason for doing what we were doing," Ellsberg told CNN. "My strong expectation is these 92,000 pages will not convey any good reason for the dying and killing and the enormous money we're spending over there in a time we cannot afford it."


[Update: 20:27] WikiLeaks shines spotlight on mysterious Task Force 373

U.S. military documents released by WikiLeaks show that a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan assigned to hunt down terrorists also was responsible for the deaths of civilians, Afghan police officers and, in one particularly bloody raid, seven children while they attended school.

The unit is called Task Force 373. It’s assigned to kill so-called “high value” targets or detain them without trial, often in night operations. The 373 follows a hit list of sorts, according to The New York Times and The Guardian newspaper in England.


[Update: 19:35] WikiLeaks documents show successes and failures of Afghan police and army

Training of and handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan police and military forces has been a central component of Afghanistan strategy during the last two administrations. Among the tens of thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks are a series of reports on the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The reports chronicle successes and failures of both agencies from 2004-2009.  Although both agencies have had failures, a preliminary review of the documents suggests that the ANP has more problems than the ANA.

Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington DC, says that the mixed bag of results in the reports are apparent when reading raw military reporting and traffic. "If you had taken 90,000 documents from the Allied forces that invaded Normandy in 1944 until they reached V-E Day in 1945, you probably would have found the same kind of success stories and failures mixed together," Riedel told CNN.


[Original post] Whistleblower website WikiLeaks has published what it says are about 76,000 United States military and diplomatic reports about Afghanistan filed between 2004 and January of this year.

The firsthand accounts are the military's own raw data on the war, including numbers killed, casualties, threat reports and the like, according to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.org, which published the material Sunday. On Monday Assange said the leaked reports from Afghanistan appear to contain "evidence of war crimes."

"This material does not leave anyone smelling like roses, especially the Taliban," he said, also implying that some U.S. troops had behaved improperly.

CNN has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the documents. The Department of Defense will not comment on them until the Pentagon has had a chance to look at them, a Defense official told CNN.

White House National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, who was among those offering reaction to the large document document, issued a statement Sunday calling the documents' release "irresponsible."

"The United States 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 statement said.

There's a whole lot of information in the documents and we're digging through them with you to get a sense of what's in them, what new information we're learning about the war in Afghanistan, and what the big takeaways are that you need to know about.

What are we learning from the documents?

WikiLeaks released the documents to The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel before any other media outlets, and they had a chance to look ahead of time. Each news organization concentrated on different angles, but here are some highlights:


The Guardian put together an interactive map using data from the WikiLeaks documents to show and detail what it deemed were several significant events from the logs for users to examine in greater detail.

The paper also dug into many other issues the WikiLeaks material offered information about including:

On Osama Bin Laden: The Guardian examined documents that allegedly link bin Laden to several incidents between 2004 and 2009.

- Osama Bin Laden reported to have issued orders to suicide bombers in Afghanistan
- Afghanistan war logs: Bin Laden instigates suicide attack against Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to U.S. report

On civilian casualties: Many of the documents deal with civilian casualties, whether from air strikes, at roadblocks or in other circumstances.

-Special forces wound two, kill six, including young girl, plus donkey and chickens

On Pakistan ties: Several documents that The Guardian highlights indicate the fingerprints of Pakistan's ISI spy agency on some Taliban activity.

-Pakistan's spies accused of arming Taliban ally with motorbikes for suicide attacks


The Times redacted material it felt would reveal suspects' identities, to protect “people in danger,” or that would “reveal key tactical military capabilities.” The Times links to an explanation of its redactions.

On Pakistan: The Times reports on documents that show Pakistan allows representatives of its secret service to meet directly with members of the Taliban in strategy meetings to organize militants to fight against Americans in Afghanistan. Plots to assassinate Afghan leaders have been discussed in these meetings, according to the documents.

- Pakistan Aids insurgency in Afghanistan, reports assert

On how the war is going: The Times reports a "ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayals."

- View is bleaker than official portrayal of war in Afghanistan

On fighting the insurgency: The Times tells the story of U.S. Outpost Combat Keating, opened in 2006 in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan Province to fight the insurgency. The Times reports that leaked documents show three years of frustration within the outpost including low troop levels, unreliable Afghan partners, and an insurgency that has “grown in skill, determination and its ability to menace.”

- Strategic plans spawned bitter end for lonely outpost

On tactics insurgents use to attack: The leaked reports repeatedly describe differing tactics insurgents used against U.S. and NATO troops during the war

- Insurgents seen wearing government uniforms, and other times when they have roamed the country or appeared for a fight in the same Ford Ranger pickup trucks that the United States had provided the Afghan Army and police force. The trucks are described in this Nov. 2006 document.

- The Times also reports that the Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

On U.S. military resources: Referring to vehicles used by Americans, the New York Times reports, “For months the reports show how a third — or even a half — of the team’s vehicles were out of service, awaiting spare parts.”

On trust between U.S. and Afghan officials: In September 2007 in Paktia Province, a U.S. Civil Affairs report details a meeting that it had with unhappy Afghan district officials.

- According to the New York Times, the Afghans began a tirade, telling the Americans: “The people of Afghanistan keep loosing their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials,” the report quoted the Afghans as saying. “The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst than the Taliban.”

On the "corruption" and "cultural misunderstandings” during war: The New York Times reports some of the documents show “an array of problems" occurring in Afghanistan during the war and small misunderstandings or victories that turned out to be failures.

Example: The truth about an orphanage
- The Times links to three documents about a locally funded orphanage that opened in Patkia province of Afghanistan in which the local director was given a leather jacket. The first document, dated Nov 2006, shows an American civil affairs officer enthusiastic about the orphanage’s opening. A few months later, a document describing an inspection reveals that only 30 orphans are at the center when there is supposed to be more 100. The third document, more than a year later, reveals that there are no orphans in the orphanage.


On German military problems: Spiegel looks at documents that allegedly illustrate little progress by the German troops in northern Afghanistan.

- Situation is far worse than the German government reports

On targeted assassinations: Several documents involve alleged targeted killings by the secretive U.S. Task Force 373.

- U.S. elite unit could create political fallout for Berlin

So just who is WikiLeaks and exactly what did they publish?

WikiLeaks publishes and comments on leaked materials that allege government and corporate misconduct.

The nonprofit site is run by a loose band of tech-savvy volunteers and has quickly become one of the Web's go-to locations.

Assange declined to tell CNN where he got the documents. He claims the documents reveal the "squalor" of war, uncovering how many relatively small incidents have added up to huge numbers of dead civilians.

This month, Assange, who is rarely seen in public, told a TED conference that Wikileaks thoroughly vets materials on the site. Watch his TED talk

The significance of the documents, Assange told CNN, lies in "all of these people being killed in the small events that we haven't heard about that numerically eclipse the big casualty events. It's the boy killed by a shell that missed a target."

However, the team at the website WikiLeaks has itself read only 1,000 to 2,000 of the documents, Assange said Monday.

soundoff (595 Responses)
  1. Robert

    If speech is absolutely free, then child p-rn, copyright violations, treason, would all be free speech.

    The West is at war. We have professional agitators from both the far left and far right undermining our national security, destabilizing our state, and providing support and comfort to those who would kill us all. The people behind this leak should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    The Internet is merely a new avenue facilitating communications. When the printing press, telephone and TV were invented, no one thought that it was a free-for-all. There is good information and there is bad information. The government needs to ensure this medium is exploited for the transmission of good information, while bad information should be filtered out.

    It is past time that the US implement a "Green Dam" project that protects and preserves our nation, modeling on the system that has already been successfully implemented in China

    July 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. swest

    Miss Me for President!

    July 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Laura

    This will be the case that will lead to heavy censoring of the internet or the outright blocking of it in the United States.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. steve505

    Propaganda, nothing more.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ATMoore

    There are so many parameters that we must follow in battle its crazy. I am a Military member that knows of the kinds of things we cant do for fear of too much devastation. I've read on this forum that our military is weak, we are incompetent and thats just not true. If it weren’t for tree huggers crying every time someone gets a splinter and thinking everybody deserves to have there "CIVIL RIGHTS" uphelded, even captured terrorists, then I guarantee things would be different. Our military has the almighty power to blow Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and hell China all the way back to the Ming Dynasty if we wanted to. So dont blame the troops and hell dont blame the terrorists either because we are all just playing our role. Its just that the terrorists dont have to play with a watered down playbook like my fellow brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces do.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark Shaner

    The government loves doing this....Remember just days back, an article that america is giving 5 Billion dollars to Pakistan was conveniently brought down hours after cnn published it. Nice way to spend tax payers money on a criminal country. Nice return on investment for Pakistan....Breed a few hundred terrorists, get billions in return!!

    July 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. steve505

    Propaganda, nothing more..

    July 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Deepak

    I think despite so many proofs and allegations the people at Capitol Hill do nothing, just crib against each others decision, I think the people there are fit to run a small business company with the president being the CEO, not to run the United States

    July 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Observer

    Osama bin Laden is still killing Americans. President Obama is trying to get him and his supporters.

    What did Bush do to prevent bin Laden from killing Americans still today? Bush said he wasn't concerned about bin Laden and sent 10 times as many troops into a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11.

    So now we have another mindless attack blaming President Obama for trying to avenge 9/11 - the attack where Bush decided it would be his best use of time to read "The Pet Goat".

    July 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fundoo

    This is a surprise?.....NOT! Let's see, how can we make this a 'teachable moment'? FIRST, let's get our geopolitics on: Pakistan's strategically at the southern confluence of the Russian & Chinese empires. Has been a nice li'l listening post for us, howdy neighbors. Maj. Francis Gary Powers took off in his (CIA operated) U2 in 1962. This dance with the Pakistani generals is going on 60 years! Many billions have flowed over there in that time. Those friendships helped us rope in those same generals to drive out the Russians from Afghanistan – can you say mo' money, mo' stingers and mo' funding of mujahideen like Osama!!! Oops. Bush sr. & Charlie Wilson & gang may have driven out the Russians, unfortunately driving the bearded one to seek control among the disbanded mujahideen, and ultimately revenge. Ouch. But hey good for those generalissimos, scratch our back fellas and we'll scratch yours, damn right believe you me. Not so good was the 'diversion' of those billions into, ahem, personal enterprises by those generals. Hey! Let's grow poppies along the Afghan border into Iran, nice li'l multi-billion dollar heroin "trade", eh, that we can oh so easily export to the west, including USA! Turns Americans into addicts, oh too bad. Oh, Pakistan and India hate each other? Have fought 3 wars and armed up with nukes? Who cares that Pakistani generals based their nuke program on creating an "islamic bomb" with technologies stolen from the west and investments from islamic nations? Uh, maybe Israel is concerned? Yesss! but no one's been listening to them apparently. If they had, this breaking news today would have broken at least 10 years ago. Oh it did, guess no one's been paying attention. By the way, the average Pakistani citizen has had it with this organized crime and looting of aid dollars and is disillusioned with its generals. Unfortunately, that has turned into a wellspring of support for Osama & gang and anyone with anti-American rhetoric. A very convenient sunni majority in a nation of 140 million, welcoming Saudi dollars and religious influence into it's life, through proliferation of madrassas, fiery wahhabi influenced preachers and rise of homegrown terrorist leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Not saying the Saudi's don't love us, sure they just can't wait to sell us their oil dirt cheap (oh sorry, that changed after 9/11). And the fact that 19 of the hijackers were Saudi is just a weird coincidence, I'm sure, no master conspiracy there against America. Oh, and China's growing friendship and influence with Saudi Arabia and other islamic nations, just one big coincidence. SECOND: let's talk money, mo' money than God could imagine, and a Pakistani version of golden parachutes for the armed forces. You say axis of evil & most people say "N. Korea". Ok, that's ok, but we're forgetting a key crime family – Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)! Very busy, and enriched, these guys have been, yeah baby. Launching terror attacks within India for the last 60 years, latest one being the Mumbai attacks. Key criminals involved in these terror attacks regularly use Karachi as a base slip in/out of India and Dubai. And creating the Taliban to annex Afghanistan, its land, especially the poppy growing Golden Crescent! These guys have outdone the (in)famous Khun Sa of the sister Golden Triangle (another CIA-managed, counter-insurgency that devolved into a massive drug trade). THIRD: in spies we trust. In addition to its aforementioned accomplishments, the ISI has facilitated the Khan nuclear bazaar – "get 'em while they're hot!" – exchanging N. Korean Long March ICBMs for Pakistani nuclear technology for example. And while we sacrifice our finest, give our blood and enormous treasure, China seems to be sailing along just fine. Chairman Mao's directive to his people to "hide your brilliance, bide your time" seems to have been very good advice indeed that has been implemented brilliantly. The Rand corporation warned of this fractionating world when the Berlin Wall fell, too bad we haven't heeded the warning signals or apparently done enough to herd these cats.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. armaan

    If ISI aiding insurgency in Afghanistan and India then who is involve in terrorist activities on Pakistani soil,is it Indian intelligence RAW or CIA?More than 10,000 civilians died post 9/11 by the terrorists bombing in various part of Pakistan,more than 3,000 army personal died fighting with the terrorist in AFPAK region.Pakistan economy in bad shape because of this so called war on terror.People of Pakistan are real victim in this war.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ash - Canada

      Same ISI who has created these terrorists. Some of them are no more in control of ISI.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • bahsir

      ISI and its militant allies have destroyed Kashmir, attacked Kargil,and carried out terrorist operations all over India .Do you think there is no pay back. Nations have long memories and still longer memory of wounds inflicted.There is always payback Mr Armaan.Pakistan is on a downworld spiral of self destruction.Sooner the better.Your are a nation where women are stoned to death .You deserve nothing but the great bang of internal explosin.Enjoy

      July 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. andy c

    The majority of the leak are from the Bush era 2004-2009. The war crimes claimed happened with consent under the Bush administration. No surprise here. Bush cared little about civilian deaths this is why both wars lasted so long. When you kill innocents you tend to grow an insurgency rather than quell them. No country wants foreign troops on their soil much less troops that kill woman and children without regard for life. If we are guilty of war crimes, shame on us! War is hell, but you kill the enemy and prevent collateral damage. 92,000 pages of leaks couldn't have come from 1 person. My guess there were more involved in this leak.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Edgar Dallen Popo

    One of you people might want to go to google or wikipedia and type in the War on Terror. You'll learn a lot more in there then probably for some expected!

    July 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wmscot

    We need full knowledge of the reason why we are sending our much needed finacial resorces and un men and women to this counrty only to see them being wasted by the stupidity of our state department and DOD. The moenys to the Pakisani govenment need to stop if that money is getting back to the taliban and Ben Laden. That is just flat wrong.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carole Clarke

    It's in Pakistan's best interests to fund the Taliban even tho they are lip-service allies of the west. Pakistan profits from a destabilized Afghanistan by controlling some of the factions. Can't blame them, after all they live right next door while we get to go home here on the other side of the globe. They might also be able to grab some of the opium trade and these new mining consessions. Anything to make a buck. In the end I expect everyone involved will have their hands into Afghanistan and the only ones who will not profit from it are the poor villagers in that country. Such is life.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20