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. Superman

    I don't see how anything on wikileads can put Americans in harms way, it's all about stuff that already happened a year ago or more. All it's doing is telling American (or reminding them in most cases) how ugly war really is. It's time to get out of there and stop being the worlds police.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cdcmaximus

    i totally agree with ray. pull out and let are drones to the job. let them live 500 yrs in the past.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SGT Adams

    Wiki Leaks editor = aiding an enemy of the U.S. makes him a terrorist to the U.S. We Don't need jurisdiction to arrest or assassinate make him the NEXT casulty of war. Send in a MKultra operative and get the job done. God bless our troops, especially the snipers!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. KA

    Simple solution. Put a gun to Assange's head, pull the trigger. No more albino troublemaker.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Intrigued

      What is your problem. Do you actually kill everyone who does something you don't agree with you? Can I do the same thing because I don't agree with your hick values?

      July 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. m. payne

    The problem is that Muslims don't believe that radical islam exist. They think islam is peaceful and it is not possible for a muslim to kill someone. Accually their mirror is so norrow and they are ignorant, they don't see the whole picture.. Their are 2 Billion muslims in these World, how can you guarantee me that all of these population is not terorist? 1000 terrorist are more than enough to shake the world.. So Muslim countries should help to USA to finish El Kaide!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin

    I think we're there for WOMEN middle East so tight,so nice,so horney. Because all the White WOMEN too messy up in Here !!! Let's go to Afghan Women then,who care about Terrorist,Every single one's terror !!!!!! i'm said that !!!!!!!!!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bozo

    ISI has been dirty since the 70's.. They are up to their necks in dealing heroin and other drugs. They hate america and they are fundamentalists to boot.. We should have never gotten in bed with them

    July 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jobs

    Did they or someone just knockout the wikileaks website...take a guess who

    July 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 11c Infantry


    July 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shocked

    My husband has been active duty for years. I am shocked at some of the responses. My husband and all the men and women that serve with him are volunteers. He and many of them had at least one degree when entering the military. The comment about serving to get college paid for or because they had a D average is just an ignorant comment. They are serving because they wanted to serve their country. My husband is an engineer and an incredible man. He could work anywhere and he chooses the military because he wants to serve his country and protect us. To the very ignorant person that thinks people only join for an education, or because they couldn't do anything else, I'd like to see you operate a Nuclear Reactor, be a chemical engineer, or be part of an underwater construction unit, etc without being educated. Yes, there are some who come into the service, do the bare min, and leave bc they want the GI bill. As long as they come in knowing what they are signing up to do, then that is fine. I wish everyone could give four years to the military. You'd learn more than most do in college. Did you know there are requirements to join? Most branches won't even take someone with a GED. And if you are going to work anything but an entry level position, you have to have very high test scores and/or a degree. We have lower paid positions based on education just like in the civilian world. People need to get over the stereo type. It's not like what you see in the movies or on TV. No one is marching to work, or sleeping on bunk beds in a long hall at night. We own a nice house off base, my husband goes to work like anyone else, but he wears a uniform and will deploy. He runs late, and no one stands him at attention and yells, he is an employee. He volunteers on base to coach youth sports programs, he plays on a soccer team, etc. He is a normal man doing every day things, but we are a military family.

    My husband and MOST of the service members support this war. They are the ones there, seeing it first hand and know it is needed. You cannot base your opinion from reading media stories and expect to be respected. If you have lived there or served there, then I will respect your thoughts either way.

    This information should not be releases. It does put those who serve in harms way. It also ruins negotiations and current agreements. Our enemies do not need to know what we do. They do not need to know our advantages. The Government is not trying to keep it from their own citizens, but the PUBLIC in general.
    People that put this information out should be ashamed. We are tattling on ourselves to our enemies.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Go Away

      You support this war...then you have bloody hands for not killing the bad guys but for killing the innocent children and women and weak and old people.
      You are Abu Garaib supporter, aren't you?

      July 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachell

      I hope your loved ones stay safe, but you are wrong to criticize the release of this information. It's not revealing the truth that is putting our troops in harm's way. It's sending them abroad in the first place and allowing this conduct to go on unchecked and unpunished. If you want to blame someone, blame your elected officials that voted to keep this war ongoing without any clear definition of SUCCESS. Blame the government and media who wished to keep this information secret. It's not US knowing the truth that will hurt your husband....believe me, I'm sure the people in Afghanistan were WELL aware of the information wikileaks provided first hand. Afterall, why do you need to google something when you family was obliterated by an unmanned drone? Shame on you for wanting to suppress this. Shame on everyone who wishes to continue this operation under the cover of darkness without true accountability.

      July 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lochlan

    The United States government use the media to lie, and they do it a lot. Here is the clear proof. Then their are the posters we see all over these sites who seem to be working for the government, saying where's you're proof? Followed by a "that's not a credible source" to eyewitness accounts. As they then put up their "credible source" that, as proven here, is the lie.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dotdotdot

    I would like to see these people responsible for the leaks, including Wikileaks and their associated papers face charges of murder for every soldier killed as a result of the intelligence this provides our enemies. Blowing cover to keep the government honest is one thing; putting our troops lives in even greater danger so you can make yourself rich and famous is quite another.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bootyism

    The earth has a way of cleansing itself.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Shri

    Of course pakistan helps Taliban and other terrorists to attack against Indians, Afgans and US.. All the US aid is going down the terror drain... When will we realize that???

    July 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. GT66

    Sounds like were still fighting with Vietnam tactics. What a mess. Do the job right or don't do it at all. This is what comes of letting accountants and PR agents run a war. We'll be running out with our tail between our legs just like in 'Nam.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
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