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. Petey

    Oh no! People die in war! People kill people! I'm scandalized! I thought they we playing tag with Nerf guns!

    I was against the war two days ago. If anything, now I'm a bit more for it.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. SM

    No big suprises... any half-wit with a little common sense knew right after the US made up it mind to invade Afghanistan that the US was in for a decade or more of headache and eventual defeat. If history is any guide, the US will withdraw in shame, a lame duck superpower running from Afghanistan with its tail between its legs.

    The purpose of these leaks is to prepare the American people in particular, and the world in general, for the withdrawal of US & NATO troops. The war has been lost.. it was lost a long time ago...the issue at hand is whether the US is sensible enough to withdraw now and maintain some respect or eventually withdraw like the Soviets and the British did, defeated and destroyed in the graveyard of empires.

    The loss of resolve just nine years on is appalling considering the lofty claims made by Bush and the rest of his cohorts, includings Mrs. Clinton, just just exactly nine years. So much for the claims that the US is the strongest ever.

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

      Go f yourself. Have you ever served, do you have any idea what it takes to do what they do..you lame ass here is YOU. We can close the borders ban travel to the middle east and back and force their governments to either purge the terror cells or die off, but you need to be duck taped, water boarded and sent to Gitmo.

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

      defeatism on display. Remember these people when you vote in November and make sure we purge them from the congress.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • SM


      We'll all be here... don't worry and we can see who shall be right on this. I am not putting down our patriotic soldiers who do their duty, rather our leaders who are the worst of the worst and have put us in this mess we are in now.

      As far as the mideast goes, we need them more than they need us.

      As far as Gitmo goes, so be it. I'll take it with the flow.... not to worried about water boarding or torture. Try it.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • sarah palin stinks

      this war is masterminded by the catholic church, the british empire, the rockefellers, the rothschilds, the rest of the illuminati. and by the war, there is no gulf oil spill, it is just los angeles mayor antonio villaraigosa taking a swim and a bath. he cheated on his wife with that reporter, too.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      The Era of personal responsibly is OVER. Do you not see what is going on Washington owns 65% of GM and Chrysler! The government NOW OWNS a Private car company and banks and the school loan system..come on people. Bush wasn't perfect, but he didn't bail our PRIVATE corporations and we got some money when bush did his version of the bail we got NOTHING with OMAMA and his bailout. You Obama fans have smoked way too much crack.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mark

    Chris you're a loser too! Shut up!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. I am a fool or am I


    This webpage is not available.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I guess Big Brother did not like it. For the govt we are like Herd of cows

    One joke on this

    "What a cute bunch of cows!" she remarked.
    "Not a bunch, herd", her friend replied.
    "Heard of what?"
    "Herd of cows."
    "Of course I've heard of cows."
    "No, a cow herd."
    "What do I care what a cow heard. I have no secrets to keep from a cow!"

    Think Think. That is one difference between us and cows.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Its an organized denial of service campaign by american citizens. People are swarming the site and their servers are overloaded. Visit Wikileaks early and often !

      July 26, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Garrett, McHenry, IL

      Ive been able to get on it. its just overloaded with idiots looking at stuff.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LL

    Is not Assange an enemy combatant? How is this guy any different than the American taliban? I know he's Australian. But do we know his motives to be any different than the Taliban? I'm just sayin. I know I don't trust this guy and would you if your in the military?

    July 26, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan O

      He has a lot less to hide than our government and military. So believe who you want. It's only our American brothers and sisters dying over there, no big deal. Why try to know the truth?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. twok

    What a wussy this guy is, what's his name, Julian??? Typical liberal passivist weasel. He would be crying out if Australia ever got bombed, then we will go down there and save him, and he will probably do something to express outrage. Hummm, what's that sound??? I think it is the CIA ordering a hit.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Perhaps if we didn't have so many secrets we would be better off.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. adsfd

    fear right now is the empty orphanage which could mean kidnapping and kids getting caught by taliban to be used as canon fodder.
    also fear that the government is government and so lack of faith among the common man and pakistan's ISI is helping taliban. for a reason to keep themselves in control of that area.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. I am a fool or am I

    Stop this Bush / Obama fight.
    Bush or Obama, they are all lier.

    I need more Cow Bells!!

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

      U, my man, r a FOOL!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. Zoltan

    The War Logs are the new Pentagon Papers, and Julian Assange is our new Daniel Ellsberg. WikiLeaks deserves the Nobel Peace Prize–more than the last recipient did.

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

      They deserve a J-DAM down their air shaft.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mike M

    Obama's poor leadership has hurt the war effort. You don't tell your enemy when you are leaving! Why would any civilian trust the US military, when they know we are out of there soon with a set deadline? This strategy has undermined our troops. If you want to fight the Taliban, you better be in it for the long run.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. USA401

    As far as Im concerned WikiLeaks are traitors. The ONLY thing this data they are posting is going to do is provide terrorists with intel. Thanks Wikileaks we now know what your intentions are.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. holtram

    One word: Treason. Punish those responsible to the fullest extend of civic and military law.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • sarah palin stinks

      ain't it funny how you call truth Treason. are we on the same planet?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • holtram

      Clearly you are not, palin.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. allinthesamebed

    1 in the morning,looks like night to me,peace,no money in peace,when in Rome......,games of an empire,time to wash our hands.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. Gerald

    I can understand if you don't support the president or the corruption that goes on in the U.S., but not supporting the troops is just plain selfish. If they weren't over there, then those disgusting terrorists would be here. The troops risk their lives every day for you weather you support the war or not. I'm pretty sure if your an American, you wake your ass up in the morning and are free to do what you want, so stop taking this issue as a joke and making people like yourselves look like fools. Support your troops who protect your life and the lives of your loved ones.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fupped

    @Chris: Re: "The letter to the Editor of a British Newspaper"...Check the reliability of your sources. This letter has been circulating for at least 4 years, and has purportedly been written by an old man, an old lady, an American to American papers, etc. It is simply vitriol that was circulated in support of the past Administration's intent to turn all Americans against Muslims, in support of the hawkish mentality of the administration and the GOP.

    I'm just sorry you fell for it.

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