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. Salvador

    Saudis attacked the WTC, but I guess it was easier to attack the dirt-poor, defenseless countries with a lot of unused resources (Afghan & Iraq.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Russ

    "everybody knows that the system's rotten,
    Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton,
    for your ribbons and bows,
    everybody knows"

    July 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
      Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
      Everybody knows that the war is over
      Everybody knows the good guys lost
      Everybody knows the fight was fixed
      The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
      That's how it goes
      Everybody knows

      July 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miss Me

      @ Russ & Scott – you know how you know when you're old? When you think you're rocking out – but the station bills itself as "classic" rock.

      July 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TheFallofRome

    The "Mayor of Wasilla" is going to eat Barry (the village idiot) for lunch in 2012. In the meantime, this November is going to be bloody. The libs (mouth-breathers) are gonna lose big time.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cajr

    i can't wait until they find out who leaked these doc's and execute them, along with the guy who runs that site. i'm sick and tired of these frikin traitors who call themselves americans. they should be executed for treason.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Oates

      Do you wear "Jackboots"?

      July 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dale

    Hmmmm 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.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Russ

    J.T. – lose the tin foil buddy.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael Daily

    I'm a liberal but I'm angry about these leaks. It's one thing to do this when gross war crimes are committed, but this is just a mass exposure of all sorts of stuff that the public doesn't need to know. Questioning the appropriateness of a military mission and actively undercutting it while it is at war are two very different things.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vvv007

    Pakistan is supporting the terrorist from a long time. USA always supported Pakistan bcoz India was on USSR side during the cold war. Pakistan was supporting terrorist activities in India and then it gradually increased its presence in Afghanistan during soviet invasion with the help of america. America knows everything but it does not have other option but to support the Pakistan unless it want a war with Pakistan. It can not supply war material to its troops bcoz Afghanistan is a land locked country with no sea route. Most of the countries on north of Afghanistan are friendly with soviet, america is in cross with Iran so only remaining country is the Pakistan through its port of Karachi it can supply its troops by easy land route. Also america need Pakistan support to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan tribal belt since america can not enter the Pakistan soil due to chances of social unrest in Pakistan which will finally bring down the democratic elected government and will lead to dictatorship rule and america do not want that bcoz ISI who supports the Taliban and AL-Qaeda will be on winning side. So even america dont like Pakistan it has to support the Pakistan with money.

    Regarding India, it has been telling the world bout Pakistan from last 60 years but nobody heard that or they just ignored for the sake of their advantage. Now whole world is facing the problem which India has been facing from last 60 years and still going on. Come on India is a democratic country like USA since it got its independence in 1947 but Pakistan was under military rule for most of the time due to the reason behind Pakistan 's foundation on two-religion theory. So military controls the government affairs and they support their fellow brothers from behind while asking for more aid from America. If america want to give aid then give it for civilian purpose not for military bcoz Pakistan buys tanks,fighter aircraft but never used them against militants. They are just playing double game with america. More than 95% of population in Pakistan hate america and america still support Pakistan. India is pro-american country with more love america and america keep pushing India away and keep close relationship with Pakistan why??????????. India just need your morale support bcoz India have the money,military and will to fight terrorism.

    So wake up and start working towards right direction. I love to see India and america working together. God bless India and America.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trends

      so what about India sending spies in Pakistan for Bomb Blasts, do you know about Kashmir Singh?

      July 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Barbara

    This is war guys. This is not a school yard brawl. Things happen that we who are on the sidelines will never see (don't want to see or experience). Unless your in the thick of it shame on you. These reports should never have been leaked until ALL of our troops are home. We are fighting evil people. This is not a TV video oe TV show...this is the real stuff with real people loosing their lives, real people sacrificing themselves to keep the USA safe as well as other people safe. There are always going to be calcuties whether it's a woman, child or animal. I am not righteous enough to make comments about some of the things listed in this report especially because I was not there when these horrific situations happened and I don't want to be there. God bless our troops wherever they are and I hope the ones whio are so critical are not being critical from their safe, cussy sofas and are out there in the dirt with bullets flying by their heads as many of our troops are.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • miri

      You are in THEIR country! Not the other way around! Osama has never been caught, you have emboldened the Taliban, removed a dictator from Iraq and replaced him with a few others, increased the influence of Iran in the middle east, strengthened the position of Syria, provided a breeding ground for terrorism and drug trafficking and accomplished nothing.
      Now, please explain the good we are doing fighting these "evil" people when their own people don't want our democracy? We are half way across the world fighting a war and losing badly. Not 1 iota of success has been made. But trillions spent and lives on both sides lost. They could have waged a quit op and took out terrorist pockets without an all out war.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brad

    Wikileaks is doing the job that the press and the "news media" are supposed to be doing. They are the camera that EVERYONE should be pointing at the police, the military, and the government. Now, if only there were a similar medium exposing the FED...

    July 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. pelicansnout

    People..here's where to d/l the excel file


    July 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    "remember he had many chances years before bush to take care of him and declined"

    Actually this story was a total sham. A 1990's version of Andrew Breitbart politics. The story originated from Mansoor Ijaz and has been widely discredited. The only people who still bring this up are unfortunate victims of right-wing propaganda.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Garrett, McHenry, IL


    I am glad someone is so stupid to post information that could potentially jeopardize soldiers lives instead of turning it back over to the US Government, but what is even more stupid is that people actually support the fact that information is publicly available! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikileaks The original intent of WikiLeaks was a good idea, but at some point they should be responsible for what information they throw out to the public.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JST

    The White House (James Jones) says: "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". Unfortunately, you can't hide crimes by claiming that the information provided is classified. The American public has a right to know these things and the government (no matter if it is Republican or Democrats) has no right to say otherwise.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rana

    It is not Wikileaks, but the internet which changed the definition of information of the world. Wikileak is just a starting of a new type of journalism free from the influence of the state. Internet is already the most powerful government of the world and we should really appreciate that.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
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