July 28th, 2010
10:34 AM ET

WikiLeaks documents: What we've learned so far

U.S. Marines patrol southern Helmand province in Afghanistan.

Thousands of leaked classified documents published by WikiLeaks.org have given a rare glimpse into some operations on the ground in the Afghanistan war.

The firsthand accounts are the military's raw data on the war, including numbers killed, casualties, threat reports and the like, according to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.org. CNN has been unable to confirm the documents are authentic. Our reporters are digging into the tens of thousands of documents to see what we can learn about the war, troop operations, insurgent attacks and tactical issues.

Here's what we've learned about so far:

Toll of enemy ambushes

Some of the leaked messages reveal a strategic pattern of hit-and-run ambushes by enemy forces operating in Afghanistan - attacks that the U.S.-led military coalition began to treat as routine occurrences.

The material details more than 530 separate incidents of ambush-style assaults. While likely only a fraction of the total number of such attacks, taken together they show that the U.S. and its coalition partners, along with a variety of Afghan military and security branches, were mostly helpless to prevent or anticipate them.

Response when a soldier goes missing

One of the military reports takes a look at how the U.S. military responded to a specific incident when an Army officer went missing from his base in Afghanistan. When U.S. Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was first discovered missing from his southeastern Afghanistan base last summer, the commander of his unit quickly ordered "all operations will cease until missing soldier is found."

"All assets will be focused on the DUSTWUN [duty status - whereabouts unknown] situation and sustainment operations," according to one of the 90,000 secret military reports released.

Occasional chat about bin Laden

The reports provide fleeting glimpses into the possible whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the years since his escape from American forces at Tora Bora in the Afghan mountains. There are a few interesting mentions of bin Laden, but many of the reports in which his name surfaces focus on what officials believed or thought about whether he was trying to remain hidden or avoid capture and occasional references to events or meetings he is reported to have attended.

Some documents quoted intelligence sources as saying bin Laden wanted al Qaeda operatives disguised as journalists to attack Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a 2004 news conference. In 2005, his financial adviser and an Afghan insurgent leader reportedly were dispatched to obtain rockets from North Korea to use against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Truckers shaken down from both sides

A few of the leaked documents show that sometimes supplies are just as much a focus in this war as the people on either side simply fighting each other. Truckers moving vital supplies along the roads of war-torn Afghanistan have faced shakedowns by both the Taliban and Afghan authorities, with Taliban fighters charging up to $500 for safe passage, the leaked reports show.

A trucking company working in Afghanistan told American forces "that they were approached by Taliban personnel to talk about payment for the safe passage of convoys through their area," one report from 2007 says.

Infighting and drug use among Afghan forces

Some documents reveal conflict among Afghan security forces, including attacks on one another, as well as heavy drug use among troops.

The material details more than 60 "Green on Green" incidents in which Afghan military personnel were more concerned with battling each other, rather than insurgents. Illegal drugs appear in several other instances to have fueled much of the internal Afghan disputes, including instances where soldiers were caught being high on drugs, and in one report, the drug use led to a gunbattle breaking out on base.

Media's impact on investigations

While many of the reports are details from sources on the ground about certain daily operations, one leaked document sheds light on the confusion of what turned into a controversial attack in Kunduz - and how the media played a role in the military's investigation afterward.

One leaked document shows how NATO troops were mistaken in a deadly air attack on two stolen fuel tankers last year. After the tankers were blown up and a unit was sent to the scene, a military report of the incident found no civilian casualties.

But a later update said: "At 0900 hrs International Media reported that US airstrike had killed 60 civilians in Kunduz. The media are reporting that Taliban did steal the trucks and had invited civilians in the area to take fuel."

Drone crashes targeted for aircraft parts

When unmanned aircraft crash in Afghanistan, scavenger hunters frequently aren't far behind, U.S. military incident reports suggest.

On several occasions, military units sent to recover Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles arrived to find the aircraft stripped of valuable parts - including key electronic components.

Successes and failures on the battlefront

The training of and handing over of security responsibilities to the Afghan police and military forces have been central components of U.S. 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 Afghan National Police.

The reports chronicle successes and failures of both agencies from 2004-2009. Both agencies have had failures, but a preliminary review of the documents suggests that the police has more problems than the army.

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Will

    It's sort of ironic that Julian Assange loves Muslim Terrorists so much, because in the Islamic Theocracy that they seek to create, lilylivered h0moseexual Communist sisssies like him would be the first ones to be beheaded.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      If that's the case then maybe we could learn something from the Muslims then.

      July 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joel2

    The founder of WikiLeaks.org should be arrested again and put away for the rest of his life. Too many lives are at stake here.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    What people fail to comprehend is that War on Terror was all about money.
    Lets face it, war helps the economy.
    Sure we are spending millions for funding the war, but in the end the money comes right back to us with even more net gain. Ammos need to be created, jeeps, cars, ect all need to be shipped and sold. If the US military doesnt need them, then they are sold to foreign countries for a profit. War is all about money.

    The gulf war was always about protecting American (and European) interest/assets overseas.
    The reason for our poor economy back home is NOT because the government are spending our tax dollars on war support, it is becuase the value of the American Dollar has gone down everywhere else in the world.

    However since American assets are in every continent of this world, our economy hurting us also hurts the world. And the cycle seen from any recession continues.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AntiWar

    Obama needs to give a tricky speech (as he is good at it) without making anyone realize that we can lose in WAR.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. curious steve

    oh please CNN and the neo-fascists, tell us what to think about wikileaks and the leakages, LOL.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pluralist

    Sending troops to Afghanistan to fight the 9/11 terrorists is tantamount to sending the police up to the 6th floor of the Texas Schoolbook Repository building a few hours after JFK was assassinated – we're too late. There's nothing there. It's time to switch strategies from an unfocused overt war to a sharply focused covert surgical counterintelligence operation.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MartinSA

      your analogy is right, but simplistic. determing what type of act terrorism is also determines what arena should the consequences fall under. if they're treated as street criminals, they get all the rights a regular criminal gets. if they're treated as military threats they have to follow military standards (of course Geneva convention and such still apply) for security and detainment.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. OhioPatti

    For the love of God and all that is good, get those soldiers out of that war. This is equivalent to murder, sending our citizens in military over there to fight and maybe die, when this is going on. It all just makes me sick.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • curious steve

      they volunteered to participate in the killing game. on the other hand, the afghanis never invited ot volunteered but have been slaughtered by the volunteer mercenaries.

      July 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      If the Muslims didn't want to go toe-to-toe with us, they shouldn't have flew planes into our buildings on 9/11. Though I do agree that we should pull our troops out of Afghanistan - just before we level it with a couple dozen nuclear warheads.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wendy

      wow, you bleeding heart fool. Do you really think that any of it will end after they all come home? Do you think that 9/11 was the first time the US was ever attacked by terrorists? The problem is, people like you cannot stomach what must be done, you probably like to join hands and sing and think that embracing someone and smiling at them (when they want to cut your head off) will make them like you and make them turn the other cheek. You are living in a fantasy land.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • BG

      agree with "The Truth" flatten it all! Bring The Troops home.....war over

      July 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • BG

      Is there anyone in uniform that volunteered not knowing there was a possibility they could die defending you and me and everyone else in our country? Can't thank our troops enough for giving us our freedom.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Angry

    This site and this goof you owns it, needs shutdown immediately....This is awful, we are endangered all those who fight for the freedoms we share in this great country. This is treason! We need our freaking privacy back, we are at WAR people, our enemy shouldn't know what we are doing. Do you think we actually would have our freedom if this information was available to anyone and everyone back in WWII.....WAKE UP PEOPLE! This is just sick!

    July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • curious steve

      your will have your day at the war crimes tribunal. don't worry. people of the world will make sure of it.

      July 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agreed

      Angry I agree w/ you.. I wish people would understand this.. the Enemy should not have our intelligence information.. Who does that? This information could cause people their lives... because someone wanted to know.. No American Public you DO NOT need to know EVERYTHING..

      July 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason B.


      So how is this treason, but putting us in this never-ending "war" under false pretenses to begin with isn't treason? How is it not treason for contractors to be bilking us for millions (if not billions) of dollars over this?

      And frankly, one could argue that putting out this information is flat-out patriotic. By giving us Americans this information, we're allowed to question our government and its' actions. Having a checks-and-balances system is a core piece of our democracy, as is having that ability to question our government.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Well wisher

    CNN is not Anti Amercian>>>

    US Army is the strongest force on the face of this planet. Dont forget about the Red Army 1979. They were kicked out of Afghanistan by Afghans with US money. ( The only reason why we still are in Afghanistan is because we say that, this is a war against Taliban not Afghans). The day we change our mind and fight Afghans, will be the day when history will repeat its self. 1500 years of war, and Afghans never lost any.
    (God bless our troops and the USA).

    Please support our troops not politics.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • curious steve

      support the all volunteer mercenaries to commit further war crimes in my name and on my dime?

      nice try. we'll see you at the war crimes tribunal!

      July 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Don't listen to curious steve because he has no idea what "he" is talking about!

      July 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Papa Mike

      Well wisher you left out one key bit of intel. It was our Stinger Miissles that sent the Russkies packing. Their Hind choppers were rendered obsolete. We don't have that problem now.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • BG

      curious steve – MERCENARIES???? WAR Crimes??? You ungrateful F*&#

      I want thank you on behalf of my family members in Afghanistan right now who are helping citizens of that country and defending your freedom to say what ever you want. Thank you...thanks a lot.....better yet....do do yourself a favor...next time you see someone in uniform, go up to them and remind them yourself that you think they're a mercenary.

      I would imagine, they would physically remove your head from your A$#. You ungrateful piece of $*&@

      Leave this country!

      July 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mitch

    all i want to know is why cant we just get the truth...in my oppinon the truth is dead. Because no one tells it...im not sayin im god cause i lie too but this government is wayyy to untruthful its not even funny.......

    July 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. andy

    It has to get to the point that the people choose not to support the choices of our gov't and choose not to fight their war

    July 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FFI

    In 1943 and 1944, terms the Germans typically used to describe the Resistance, were criminals and terrorists.

    Makes you think twice doesn't it? Simply an observation.

    Another observation or two: 1.Sledgehammers do not kill gnats. 2. Afghanistan has been invaded since the time of Alexander. No one has ever conquered the place. We aren't any different. 3. Let'f find a better way to fight the war on terror than bankrupting our country financially, militarily and morally.

    God Bless America

    July 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • curious steve

      you're talking to the neo-nazies here? i aimire your undying optimism.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • 49er

      agree ffi and if we are going to war let congress declare it ( while not worrying about getting elected) and have a war, not military acting in a so called police action. Everyone would understand what we are trying to accomplish. And why does this world wide war on terror seem to only be about afganistan?

      July 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joey

    Ya only "tidbits" about osama bin laden the so called "terrorist" that attacked us on 911.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Miguel

    I’m sure the Obama administration knew, and approved. This is nothing more than a staged excuse to leave Afghanistan. The media is pretty selectively outraged about leaked information, apparently. All I see from our media over this is

    July 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Canuck Steve

    Bin Laden is dead (like Elvis) for 7 years at least! Not a word from him, no tapes, no reports, just distorted sounds from tapes that talk about nothing but old rethorics pre 9/11. Am I the only one to think so? We will never see his face again and nobody's gonna complain. If we need an anemy, look for it in Pakistan that plays a double sided game for a long time now. Get our boys where they are needed. nothing is going to resolve this &?$$* war.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
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