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)

    I wish you fools will wake up. This war you guys keep talking about is fake. The terrorist are fake. What don't you get? On the CIA most wanted list Bin Laden is not even wanted for the 9/11 attacks. Go look up al qaeda, The name al qaeda comes from the file name of the CIA agents that we trained. So it never existed. Even Tony Blair admitted to this. We need this information released. It is not a crime. This whole war is a crime. I bet half of you fools still believe Sadam was behind 9/11. Do your research and dig deep fools. The man who released this information is a true patriot. We need to do everything we can to stop this FALSE war.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Papa Mike

      That's funny man. Well I guess all the kills me and my unit made, and the guys we lost were all fake too? Maybe none of us are even posting on this blog, we're just imaginary, in a dream state. Put the LSD away dude, you're cooked.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soldier

      Holy crap, where do you get your information? Probably the same websites and blogs of people who still think the Government blew up the Twin Towers. Your the kind of person who when slapped in the face with the real truth, will still deny it. I know your type, when you argue with someone who proves you wrong you just get louder and louder and louder until only your stupid opinion can be heard!

      July 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |

      No, all the kills you made where innocent civilians that were trying to protect them selves from an invading army. Why don't you get your head out of your ass and get your facts strait. Oh wait I forgot your just another dumb grunt that has no mind of his own. It's ok dude. Your just another dumb pawn in this fake ass war. I don't blame you for your crimes.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |

      This is a copy from the CIA website. Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world. Why is there no mention of the 9/11 attack?

      July 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    Hey! All you morons who keep chastising CNN for thinking a PFC is an officer – READ THE FREAKING ARTICLE AGAIN, MORONS. The article talks about an officer that goes missing, WITH A LINK TO THE ARTICLE ABOUT THE OFFICER MISSING. In the NEXT SENTENCE, it talks about a PFC. It's two different things. Maybe a class in reading comprehension?

    July 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name

      The link is to the same PFC.. the only officer even mentioned is the PFC's commander... and look whos the retarded one

      July 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dirk Dank2

    Dirk Dank–you are ridiculous.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    all i have to say god bless our troops,country, and also taxpayer's

    July 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dindy Sri lanka

    It is very hurting to hear such news. same thing happened in Sri lanka and many of our Army Intelligence were killed. After that some had sold the maps of Army bases to terrorists and did more damage. All thee things were done to make money out of human lives. Oh lord!! save the honest from these culprits !

    July 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Civort

    We cannot change what happens to us but we can change how we respond to it. White house should treat this forcibly but study this article and change approach. Its shown how the enemies operate. Now is time for a progressive approach. Big ups wikileak

    July 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brent

    Taking everyone's viewpoint about if we should be there or not, why isn't anyone upset that this has been posted? There is way too much information given that hurts our troops that are there. If you are against the war, there are better ways of working for it's end then putting the troops at more risk.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Been There

    This is what the controversy is about? Give me a break. Anyone who has been on the ground for more than a month could have told you that. And I was IN Kunduz when they blew up those tankers. I can tell for FACT there were NO "innocent" civilians at that site. They were Taliban or Taliban supporters. The locals actually threw MONEY at the German patrol that went to assess the damage because they were so glad it happened. Didn't see that on the news, did you?

    July 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. InfiniteDice

    The problem here is morality and politics. Sure the USA has the military power to pound anything they see into dust, the problem is that all the pictures that show up on the news of the bleeding dying children and women.

    Pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan would be a disaster, over 1/2 the equipment there would probably be lost, destroyed or abandoned as they wouldn't want to pay to transport it all back. Next the taliban forces would quickly wipe out the security forces in the country without US support. Lastly with a safe base to operate from, terror attacks would be a higher concern.

    What the USA could do, is sit off the coast with a fleet or two. And have 24/7 operations against anything that moves. Drones, perhaps robotic land vehicles.

    Given the nations that surround Afghanistan, it is very difficult and expensive to operate there. I'd use very cheap and destructive carpet bombing, bunker busters, etc. Ground troops are just sitting ducks, since you can't really tell who the enemy is, and you can't fire on everything you see.

    What is happening now is a massive waste of money, and valuable American lives. Use cheap weapons on simple opponents, show no mercy to anyone who supports them.

    – Opinionated Canadian.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. andy

    here we go


    July 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. enlisted

    Since when is a Private First Class an officer?

    "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."

    July 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. curious steve

    the criminals can keep their collective head up their @ss and deny the truth,

    but the whole world is the witness.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jansen

    Well just about every opinion on the subject has been mentioned. As is often the case in American military history, post WW2, we'll probably end up abandoning Afghanistan and the people who are working with us there. Someone mentioned Sun Tzu and the Art of War. One of the first things he mentions is that Armies must move quickly to secure victory. The longer an operation continues the more expensive it becomes, and the greater drain and burden it becomes on the Armies homeland. Economically, this war is unsustainable.
    To quote the Art of War:
    "When you do battle, even if you are winning, if you continue for a long time it will dull your forces and blunt your edge; if you besiege a citadel, your strength will be exhausted. If you keep your armies out in the field for a long time, your supplies will be insufficient.
    When your forces are dulled, your edge is blunted, your strength is exhausted, and your supplies are gone, then others will take advantage of your debility and rise up. Then even if you have wise advisors you cannot make things turn out well in the end.
    Therefore I have heard of military operations that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen one that was skillful and lasted a long time. It is never beneficial to a nation to have a military operation continue for a long time."

    July 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bob complicated

    The war in Afghanistan will never be able to be won until we admit Pakistan is our enemy too.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike v (Disabled Vet)

      Why can't our politicians see what we see. they need to stop playing politics and deal with the real world.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob complicated

      They do in-fact try to deal with the real world, i wish it were as simple as declaring Pakistan our enemy, but with the nuclear ability and their hate for India, they keep the super power of the United States at their whim, and take billions of our dollars to kill our own soldiers.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jansen

      How about admitting Saudi Arabia is our enemy while we're at it? Ain't gonna happen.

      July 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mike v (Disabled Vet)

    What we learned, our enemies have also learned. Those who forced the leaks have caused future deaths of our young men and women.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob complicated

      Rich old men start the wars. Poor young men fight them. Everybody in between suffers.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
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