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. cardog

    I'm no expert on deplomacy and I'm certainly no highly trained stratigist on military tactics, but I can see that when you deal with people who are cappable of smiling in your face during the day and blowing you up with IEDs at night, only proves what I've said all along. Arabs and people of the muslim faith cannot be trusted, period.
    Pakistan is our ally and we just offered them 500 million dollars that we don't have so in effect we are buying their loyalty and support????
    The United States did the same thing during the Vietnam War and everyone knows where that got us. Pakistan is muslim country. Pakistan is only going to lookout for their interest and the muslim fanatics. When are we going to learn?

    July 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Murph_76

    The people who leak this type info should be tried for treason.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |

    And 2 think...... I actually thought CNN and Fox was serious about us wining the war.....LOL....What a joke....We are screwed because our media lies to us and this is the first step of self-destruction..... The muslims never lie, when they say they will be chopping off some heads, youd better belive it.....and when they say something you better belive it, including when they offerd us peace in 2004 and we refused and went off mocking Binladin......Now we are paying the price of blindly following Israel , Aipacs Israeli Lobby and Joe Liberman..... We are marching to death slowly....We must pull out now and expell the Rothschild bankers who have robbed america dry!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. herb

    It appears that most of the commenters here are accepting the concept that the US government is somehow involved in a noble cause in the mideast. This war like all others since ww2, there is no "cause" or "end". the war is merely a vehicle for the military industrial complex to make money. Make no mistake, wars that the US gets involved in HAVE TO SHOW A PROFIT or we simply do not go. Oil was part of it, but military equipment, ammo, weapons, support services and "unspecified allied support", like pallets of cash, all served to enrich and keep enriching those companies and individuals on the "inside". Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers of all faiths and beliefs from may different countries are all sent to slaughter by their deceptive leaders in the name of this cause or that, when actually the lowest common denominator is profit for the military industrial complex. PEOPLE OF THE WORLD AWAKE !!! Find a way to make money that doesn't kill innocents or destroy the environment!!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sandra

    5 things we can do to win back America as it once was, and was always meant to be:

    1: Withdraw from other nations lands especially Muslim Lands....

    2: Stop watching Fox and CNN....More WikiLeaks, perhaps even a Tv station...

    3: End The Fed

    4: Ban groups like Aipac and Care.... Everyone deserves the same rights, The Gov. shoud protect us all...

    5: No more military AID to any nations, especially Israel.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. awram

    I'm not sure the age groups of the posters here, and nothing against anyone.
    In the old days, release of any information of this nature (right or wrong) was an act of treason. I do not agree with our foreign policy. I do disagree about the info leaked if any harm to our soldiers comes form this. Some of the posts claim that if the money were cut off to the terrorists they wouldn't be able to do as much harm. Cash Cow; The soviets were in Afghanistan for 10 years and watched the poppy fields flourish. The US has been there for 7 years and the same thing is happening. Destroy the poppy fields! When there is no more money to buy arms and make bombs, we can bring our kids home. Someone on top has to be collecting a lot of money to let the fields grow.....

    July 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mezyrqzy

    Well, I am aware of the Pakistani culture and I can bet on it that most of the Pakistani people are good people like most of the Americans are good people. It is a few with money and power who are pulling the strings and making news. A lot of Pakistani want to improve their lives and as a matter of fact, they are brilliant students, Engineers, and Doctors when they were given the opportunity. The Pakistani government is corrupt and most important, the FEUDAL system they have is the root of all evil. Many are uneducated with no knowledge of politics and the rules to play with. They put their EGO in front of them and shoot down any suggestion and opinion if it is conflicting with thier interest. The other main reason is their nuclear strength. They have every right to it so as the other countries who carry nukes. India and Israel are conspiring against Pakistan and have put a spy satellite right above Pakistan's atmosphere to watch for the nukes' movement etc etc. India, on the other hand is not innocent and many of you may think. India has been killing people in Kashmire for decades. Kidnap people and remove their kidneys and leave them stranded on the streets after the surgery. India is a BIG market for illegal organs and there is a demand for it.
    Don't forget and don't be naive here. Everyone knows what American shouldiers did with the native Indians and also in the civil war and also in Vietnam etc. Atrocious crimes were committed. We can pose we are civil but our hands are not as clean as you thing. When Afghans were fighting with USSR, they were called MUJAHIDEEN (meaning, people who do Jihad, a Mujahid) and when the same people are fighting with USA, they are terrorists. Can they be defending their land or thier culture, or heritage...because theirs may be gone like Iraqi's lost theirs. Did we build the country to where it was when Saddam was there or we just ate and s*** over their and left. Look at the history, we topple govt's for our own reasons and not for the benfit of others. If wars are not created, where will we sell our ammos. Think about it!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • prince

      LOL, what a trash.

      July 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • DR

      One has to pay consequences for their deeds, just becasue PAK is highghted today dont jump on everyone else (USA, INDIA ...). We all know how morans exist in PAK and everywhere else. Somehow most Pakisthanis are so much obssesed abt INDIA that they dream,eat,sleep hating it and talk abt your neighbour every single time some extremist pop's out of PAK, reality is they terrorists exist in PAK. Terrorism in any way is bad, so accept it rather than crying hard.

      July 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bahsir

    It is apalling that the government of Pakistan its armed forces and its secret services are all in bed with Islamic militants the Taliban and indirectly with Al Queda.The genesis of the attack on the Taj Intercontinental hotel in Mumbai has been traced to ISI the Paki Army and its Naval forces.And yet our govt funds this country ,provides it with sophisticated weaponry and sheilds it diplomatically in that joke of a forum called the United Nations.What is more disturbing is the rise of fundamental Islam right here in the US.Our politicians accept funds from nefarious Islamic groups and promise them change in our policies to accomadate the Sharia and indirectly aquiseice to Islamic fundametnalist beliefs.We should look at Denmark,France ,England ,Netherland and avoid the predicament that these countries find themseleves in.It is great to live togeatehr in peace and harmony but when the other guy calls you a "Kaffir" it is time you got your priorities straight.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeehaw

      Bashir, you are so sissy that you used a different name just to trash them and feeling like no one would understand that. Be a man and use your real name next time, you pansy...talking about making their priorities straight. Are your priorities pretty straight, Mr. perfect?

      July 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tim

    foolish americans still think were fighting a war on terrorism or some kind of propaganda buzz word like freedom. This country fights wars based strictly upon imperialism and colonialism.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sally Jane Morrison

    Thank You Wiki-Leaks, this is what I call journalism.....Screw CNN, its garbage , its junk thats filterd and holds back news for hours..... Such as those kidnapped soldiers..... Everyone was reporting for hours, and CNN was holding back.... and 17 hours after the story broke they were like OH OK......BREAKING NEWS......LOL....What a joke CNN is.... Its a zionist mouth-peice. We Americans need to stand-up to the Israeli owned media like CNN, Government officials like Rahm Emanuel and Israeli groups like AIPAC and most of all the Israeli Bankers like Tiny Tim Giethner and Benny The Jew Banker Bernanke..... Israel is robbing us dry America, they are pushing us into wars and leeching our taxes moeny away via the FED to support the killing of people from all over th middle east. America my dear, we have given to much to loose it all for Israel! From now on I say Israel is on its own, and we should bring our troops home and close all our bases for a few years and focus on ourselfs....until we get better, then, and only then can we go around acting like BIG SHOTS , because its clear...This war Israel is pushing us into to with Islam is not going to end nicely for us...So screw Israel....What can we benifit from fighitng wars for Israel? Nothing...... So as a White Female Christian American I am asking you to support America by cutting all our ties to Israel and its wars in the middle ast now for 65 years!

    July 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. producerman


    July 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Phil

    Good ol' internet, anything goes for 10 minutes of fame. Wikileaks commits espionage and its okay? Inquiring minds want to know so these sites publish anything regardless of the consequences. In their race to be first they do not even vet the stories. Make an example of wikileaks and prosecute them.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Before you spout ignorance it is good to look up what you're saying. It is legal for anyone to publish classified information if it was not in your charge. The person who leaked it is culpable for violating the conditions of their security clearance, not Wikileaks.

      I hope you don't think the same about the Pentagon Papers which showed us (too late though) what a pointless war Vietnam was.

      July 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Vinnie Paz

    AMERICA WAKE UP.......


    They basicly admited it by not refuting the Articles in Wiki-Leaks.

    IBy the way, I agree with those who posted saying we should cut of Israel because Israel does us more harm than good ! Israel drove us into many wars before and its about to do so again with my nation Iran. I dont like my nations regime, but I dont think nuking my nation is going to solve anything. Its absurd the way Israel goes around dragging america into wars that ends up killing thousands in the name of freedom. We Iranians want freedom but we dont want it by the way of Israeli Nukes or American Bombs. Please keep Israel away from us, and please Wiki-Leaks hack into the mossad systems, Im sure its a treasure trove!

    July 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    As long as we allow the right wing nuts to be involved in government–in any way whatsoever–we need wikileaks.
    The failed bush administration made it clear that they will stoop to any level to promote their way of thinking–including torture. They would have never admitted that if no one had questioned them. If our government is –BREAKING THE LAW– we need to know about it. WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERTAND?

    July 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CSD

    WHat a joke. So, the revelation that we have been steadily LOSING for 10 years, wasting BILLIONS in dollars in the process, will SOMEHOW cause us to "lose more", or "lose worse"?.....

    What kind of idiotic argument is THAT? All this does is show that the military industrial complex wants a state of CONSTANT WAR.

    War Without End, Amen. Please make the sign of Dick Cheney on your forehead.

    Sad thing is – the Macedonians, Greeks, Moors, Romans, British and Soviet Union all spent fortunes in Afghanistan.....AND LOST.

    Shame this country is too stupid, too ignorant, and too lazy to read some history. Instead, the idiots in this country are all too happy to repeat it.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
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