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. Patrick

    Freedom of speech and press is great, but when it could possibly put soldiers in even more danger than they already are, or anyone for that matter, then it's gone too far. The public does NOT need to know wevery little minute detail of what transpires during a war. This also provides more fuel to the enemy as well.

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

      Freedom of speech as long as you speak in hushed tones and don't upset anybody. I mean we wouldn't want to upset all of the innocent muslims, now would be we should have some sort of summit for them and talk about what they don't like then apologize. I mean we can't fly anything into their buildings because they have none left. We are feeding into their hate and giving these wachos fire. When you ignore the bully he goes away this bully needs a time out. If you put the ENTIRE middle east on a no fly list this will change some minds.

      July 26, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. kw

    ok, i'm not a world affairs or political genius, but isn't it considered treason to give information to an enemy that helps in their attacks on our country, ie our troops in Afghanistan?

    July 26, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. lawl

    Freedom of INFORMATION! If we don't even have the freedom to hear what our soldiers are saying about the war then what freedoms are we fighting for?
    An empty war not supported by the people and we wonder why our economy continues to fail.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      Amen to that. Almost 10 years we've been over there. I find it very interesting how SOME of the same people who probably wave American flags and spout off about how much they value the American way of life are the first ones to condemn organizations that take the initiative to declassify information on behalf of everyone. You think the U.S. government; no, ANY government, would do that while it was still relevant? We've been over there for almost 10 years and there are still people who are appalled that we aren't allowed to know what's really going on. How about those American values for you? Freedom of the press only in certain situations, huh? Both wars are total frauds and history will probably prove they were strategic failures of epic proportions...but we should maintain the status quo. The only lives that matter are American lives, right?

      July 26, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Youth

      All lives are valuable. I support freedom of speech, but yes- only sometimes. If I were overseas in a foreign land where every day I knew I was living in a place where half the people want me dead, I sure as Hell would not want to be concerned with ANOTHER problem such as ANOTHER move to be too politically correct to defend myself because some anti-war activist in Ohio would start a national uprising if i messed up doing it.
      I for one Do talk to soldiers overseas, I don't ask about the war and they don't tell me about the war. They are human beings too, so are our enemies; but I'd fight for the country that gave me the freedom to defend myself from an enemy- not insult it.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      @Youth: So you're real issue is that you don't like the idea of misconduct being exposed if it may or may not endanger the lives of U.S. troops. Which, if that IS what you are saying, we should keep everything the military does secret so that no one ever knows what is going on and we rely solely upon the Pentagon and diplomats to provide us with information about their operations...even though they won't tell anyone anything, ESPECIALLY how they use resources and what justification they have for doing anything. So, in essence, you're saying that to keep the troops safe from harm we need to continue the war until A.) we "win" or B.) they're all dead and this country crumbles under all of its international obligations? That makes perfect sense . I served in Iraq twice and Africa once, I'm VERY curious to know what the hell our government is up to, espeically considering that over 2 million people have been killed in both wars over the past 9 years and we have yet to any progress. If you disagree, well, sorry. I think you're in the minority though.

      July 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fudgerapper

    When is the US gonna wise up to these filthy arabs and nuke that whole arab area of the planet till glows??? Stop foolin around already. If this is the security that Americans are being exposed to, then what good is homeland security? about like usin a busted condom!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bzarr

      Can't do that. Can't grt to the OIL if we do that!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • fudgerapper

      to hell with the oil...burn it and the arabs too!!! Time we chucked oil, like an alcoholic throws his vodka in tha lake...no oil spill intended!!!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Robert

    All this does is confirm what everyone knew already, one Pakistan was never our friend, helps our enemy and pretents to be nice because we think we can buy friendship so they get our money. It also tells us our politicans lie to us – now there is something we have know for a long time. Bottom line is we keep voting these ldiots into office smply because both parties vote for only there party instead of for a 3 rd party or someone who cares even a third party. So go cry in your milk and vote them in yet again. NOT ME>>>>

    July 26, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    As a member in good standing of the United States – I strongly applaud this disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations. There is very little 'real' reason to classify this information except to keep 'us' from learning the truth about the haphazzard in irresponsible way this war is being handled by the past AND current administration. What really concerns me is the lack of leadership and strategy thinking officers that our Service Acadamies are putting into our military who apparently can't figure out how to win this war. What the heck are they teaching officers at these schools.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • fudgerapper

      my prediction is that the US will end in anarchy within a couple of years...hey maybe that is the meaning of 2012? Now I get it!!!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Youth

      I wonder why the AMERICAN PEOPLE are not voting into office more capable political leaders. I believe the majority of our Military brass is quite capable and experienced at their jobs. But we need to recognize that this is a new kind of war being constricted by pressure to be overly-politically-correct. The enemy is hidden, looks just lke everybody else, uses women and children to deliver bombs- thus attacking us psychologically as well, and is unlike previous enemies (closest would be vietnam and the VC).

      July 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ted Obrecht

    Why is this NOT treason?!!!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sanjay Gupta

    US supports, funds and arms Pakistan. Pakistan funds and supports Taliban. Taliban funds and arms LET Millitants. LET Millitants carry out terrorist attack and kill 200 innocent people in India.
    Conclusion: US supports terrorist attack and kill 200 innocent people in India.
    Now, US wants India to severe all ties with Iran because it is a key ally to Pakistan in carrying out terrorist attack against innocent Indians.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Squeezebox

    "they also serve who wait". I don't know who wrote that quote, but a lot of the jobs customarily done by troops are now being done by civillians and contractors in theater. The Army's cooks don't belong to the Army anymore, they work for Halliburton. There are several agencies of the Department of Defense staffed by civillians. The point is that we should be supportive of everybody who contributes to the war effort, not just the ones in uniform. And thank the uniforms for your ability to read this. 🙂

    July 26, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. 3seven0

    It's a crime to say the least, now knowing on paper that our Govt. and its Administration, being allied with Pakistan, knowingly knew that their Secret Service was engaging in meetings with those responsible for thousands of our soldiers deaths. Call it what you want, I don't see President Obama seeking any ones resignation over this incident. So much for the TRUST.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. rivirivi

    I do not know if to call all Republicans traitors, since the two generation of Bushes, first sold mustard gas and tons of viruses to guess whom: Saddan Hussein, who used to kill more than 6,000 kurds in one day, babies and all put to sleep forever and rotting on the streets. Second Bush kissed and made up with the Saudi Kings, when 9/11 the Bin Laden family royally got into a private plane and were let go the next day without any type of interrogation, remember those Bin Laden were the ones who built the two towers, their own design etc. Second Bush also sold the rights to Ports all over the USA to guess whom: Saudis Security companies, as if we need them to let us know when and where there is bomb hiding inside a vessel or at the Port in a Container. Practically sold our seas to all Big OIl bidders, got the USA under trillion in debt, then two weeks before 2 Bush left, there was a trillion dollar bailout- Nobody talks where this money went, then two months after Obama was President there was a need for another trillion dollar bailout but the Republicans who complained never spoke or never mentioned the first trillion dollars done 2 weeks before 2nd Bush went out. To me all this is treason. To allow the poisoning of our oceans, the cutting of our centuries old trees for China's jewelry boxes and toilette paper, to allow big oil car manufacturing mafia to grow so uncontrolled, that for 20 years there has been the technology for a car which runs without a drop of gasoline, only with compressed air from the street and only expels air to the street. To me, this is a sin, a sin of greedy selfish sociopath leaders.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. RickBT

    Tell me one thing that Bush did without the complicit approval of a willing Democrat controlled congress? If Bush is so stupid and Obama is so smart, why has Obummer continued nearly every major policy of the Bush administration for the last 18 months?

    July 26, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      lets see...Campaign promise was to put the focus on the afghan war were is belonged and to begin withdrawing troops from iraq in 18 months. I don't think president's Obama's policies should be a surprised. That Bush mishandled the afghan war and diverted resources to a pointless Iraq war is the real criticism.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike A

      Are you serious Rick? The Democrats only controlled Congress for the last year of W's presidency. So you say name 1 thing? How about everything he did his first 7 years in office?

      July 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. PARROT


    July 26, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Erick Vivar

    Task Force 373, our own American Dead Squads, nice, up a notch on our double standards. After all this, I thought Israel, Russia, Germany, Venezuela, etc were the playing dirty kind but, since Vietnam we are up to the task.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. adsfd

    i believe we could use this to our advantage as well as knowing where the problems are for example disappearances of orphanes and question where they end up also what are we facing and why we must question ourself why american allies will betray america, there must be some other reasons for this.

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