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. AJ

    This is some crazy mess. Who ever did this you think that this is your 5 min of fame reality check YOU JUST PUT OUR TROOPS IN MORE DANGER! I don't think this is funny and I think all of America should be upset with me and denounce this. It is just sad on what people will do to get attention.

    July 26, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Brittany


      July 26, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Talgrath

      And how does this put our troops (or anyone else) in danger? To the people of Afghanistan, much of this is not secret and no specific troop movements are mentioned. It's not like this will make the Afghans dislike us if they didn't already and it's not like this is going to reveal where our troops are now. All it does is give a picture (compiled by the US military) of what the situation in Afghanistan is. If that puts people in danger, so be it, as an informed America is more important than any sort of temporary safety we might enjoy. If things like this are classified, what else, what worse acts might be further beyond our eyes and ears?

      July 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Patrick

    Shut down this site the information that is released will be used by others to make the US a targetfor other attacks and will help bolster the ranks of terrorist groups.

    July 26, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • NewYouParadigm

      I hate to break it to you...but I suggest catching up on science. It will take your anger away and explain a great deal of things for you. It hurts me to see this confusion!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. EJ

    Send BP over there. It will be over in 92 days.

    July 26, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. NewYouParadigm

    There isn't a single person on Earth who thinks that we are in the Middle East for Anything other than Oil/drugs economy. These Games don't work. Either find the truth, or report something else. Lies are still lies even if you don't believe them! Make sure to double check what you write. It is not good to write things when the people reading know it's a lie. Come on now! No More Games!

    July 26, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I don't believe thats the reason. Your claim is defeated.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • JAL0319

      I was there for two tours and I certainly don't believe your claim at all. I believe we are there because of the same itelligence that virtually every member of Congress believed when they voted for the resolution authorizing combat operations. No one lied and Bush Derangement sydrome lies aren't based on any facts. True Partisans only seek information that reinforce their beliefs and reject overwhelming facts to the contrary.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Brittany

      Wrong. I believe we are there for MANY more reasons than Oil and Drugs. We maintain a prescence there doing many Good things besides eliminating terorist threats and training locals to defend themselves. We build schools, liberate women to feel unafraid to teach, and children to become educated.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. terry in dallas

    sometimes the truth hurts

    July 26, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |


    July 26, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Highland

      OMG.... still kicking a dead horse I see..... I don't blame you thought... I'd hate to look at what and who is running this country TODAY!!!! Let's keep dwelling back in HISTORY!! geeez

      July 26, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • JAL0319

      Don't be confused about Bush and Cheney bashing, it is Bush derangement syndrome. It is only contagious if you get your news from Daily Kos, Air America and other left wing sites. True Partisans only seek information that reinforce their beliefs and reject overwhelming facts to the contrary. Regardless of my personal beliefs of Bush and Cheney, only an extremist can believe some of this hyperbole that is on the web. They believed the same thing that almost every member of Congress believed when passing the resolution authorizing combat operations. Additionally, every reliable intelligence agency in many countries believed the same thing. I didn’t personally agree with the Iraq war but as a member of the U.S military, I went and did my best to perform our mission in spite of the terrible things said about in the press.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      here comes the "war crimes" spin. Just in time for the election. Makes you wonder where the leak was...

      July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Brittany

      Blaming a president is an old trick for renouncing our own responsabilities. Passing the buck. Obama and Bush both serve/served as president during this war and both act/acted as Commander And Cheif of the armed forces.
      Was it not also a Genocide then to you on 9/11 or 7/7?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brad

    @W Sutherland... WikiLeaks should be responsible for any attack against a US soldier based on their information? This isn't new information in that part of the world you idiot? You don't think that Afghani and Pakistani people know the US military is killing civilians, etc? Or do you really think they are reading Wikileaks right now and finding this all out? Idiot.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Brad, ever hear the phrase 'If you are not for us, you are against us?' So many people in the U.S. don't understand what U.S. troops are trying to accomplish. There is a delicate balance between protecting yourself, policing a foreign nation, and gaining the trust of the civilians. Does it really help their cause when you highlight the harm that U.S. forces are doing instead of the good? Trust me Soldiers are forced to put themselves at much greater risk on a daily basis to try and win over local support. Its hard for our leaders to explain to their Soldiers why their friends are dying next to them so we can reduce civillian deaths.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. timd

    It's amazing to hear the anger from some people who believe that the truth should be suppressed and that we should only care about what our government tells us is the truth. I would think that would really fire up the libertarians out there but instead, it seems like they prefere the fantasy. Why are we Afghanistan again? I back an immediate withdrawl. Redeploy the troops to the Mexican border and expire tax breaks for the rich. Repeal NAFTA and start enforcing import tariffs as well tariffs for outsourcing. American has no business helping other countries on borrowed money from China when it can't even help itself.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      "Mexican border" Know your facts if you are worried about the borders than go up to Canada and look there are places ware the border is in the middle of the town and other places ware the border is just a line between two roads with nothing between them.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Brittany

      I don't think that information should be surpressed, however if the information being leaked is putting added risk to an alrady very dangerous situation, it should not be disclosed until after we are out of harms way.
      It is a huge political mistake to allow China so much financial leverage against the U.S.
      However America made a promise to the people of the world, that wherever freedom was threatened we would be there, and that we will defend the defenseless. So my question would be why are we not helping places in such great need as Darfur?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Canuck

      to Patrick's response to timd: Patrick – know YOUR facts or at least listen to them....when's the last time you heard of armed drug cartels coming down from rural Canada? Are Canadians really causing that much trouble that you put us in the same boat as your other neigbours? Didn't think so.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robert

    Were the Pentagon Papers useful information to the American public in making decisions about Vietnam? Would it have been useful kowledge to know about the lies concerning WMD in Iraq before we lost over 3000 forces? Do not be afraid of the truth.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • InPhx

      Not fearful of the truth ... just concerned about my child who is sitting over there and now must deal with the potential fall out ...

      July 26, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. I am a fool or what

    U.S. Tax Payer ==> U.S. Govt funds Pakistan ==> Pakistan trains terrorists ==> U.S Solders/Citizens gets killed

    Or in other words

    U.S. Tax Payers are paying to get their own solder killed!

    Am i reading this wrong

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • DS

      cannot be more clearer than this. If US wants to provide funds to pakistan, they should atleast make sure to impose the right sanctions. It is well known that Pakistan was and can never be trusted... and as always, the US is thinking of the present and creating more terrorist states (viz. Iraq) that they have to go back and fight.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • armaan

      America using Pakistani airports and land to go through supply reaching in Afghanistan.
      there is no free ride either.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      you are a fool

      July 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Buffalo

    President Obama was not President for the majority of this report 2004 to 2009. HE WAS INAUGURATED IN JANURY 2009. WHY THE HECK ARE PEOPLE NOT INVESTIGATING AND LOOK AT CHENEY AND BUSH WHO STARTED THESE WARS !

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    This is TREASON! Stand the traitors against a wall and fire at will.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It's not treason. The guy isn't an American citizen and doesn't reside in the United States. Therefore, it's impossible to be treason. Unless you have some novel definition of the word no one else is familiar with.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Sigurdr

      Not treason since he doesn't live in the US.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      like I said...make the guy disappear... an unfortunate accident of some type.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul W

      Your right Chris, it is not treason, he is simply the enemy...Dan you second point is correct!!

      July 26, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lily

    THANK YOU WikiLeaks!!!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • InPhx

      For what exactly Lily?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Highland

      Guess your just happy to read anything ... no matter where it comes from.....

      July 26, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Luis

    Wikileaks editor should be arrested for exposing senstive intellegence. Risking the men and women of the US and NATO forces, undermiong are ability to fight and providing aid and confort to the enemy. I guess the east and west coast pseudo intellectuals of the media and ivy league feel that this man is a hero...thanks Tokyo Rose.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • timd

      Actually politicians started risking their lives when they deployed them there to begin with. Wikileaks is just exposing the situation as it really is and not as the fantasy that the politicians want us to believe. Is it ever treasonous when your government lies to you repeatedly and systematically?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      On what charges are you going to arrest an Australian national living in Iceland? You do understand that we don't have jurisdiction there, right?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Chris, you're a loser! Shut up chump!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I would like to make all the people in the white house including the President take seven day furloughs. Think of the money we could save if the government shut down for seven days?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Afghan man

    So much B.S this is a war not a tea party. People die and the newspapers and media try to make it sell same ole story we continue to fight to keep america safe and they try to sell papers.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
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