Documents released today by WikiLeaks have cast fresh doubts on the United States’ ability to win the War in Afghanistan. The documents, believed to be have been released at least in part by Pfc. Bradley Manning of Potomac, Md., according to Fox. Despite avoiding naming Manning as its source explicitly, WikiLeaks has offered to help fund his defense. Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who Manning allegedly attempted to enlist in the publication of the documents before turning to WikiLeaks, said this morning on Good Morning America that he believes Manning is the source, but that the computer analyst lacked the technical knowledge to have acted alone.
The organization, founded by Julian Assange, gained access to over 92,000 classified documents last month and, instead of releasing them immediately, gave Der Spiegel, The Guardian and The New York Times exclusive access to them under the condition that the papers not write about the story until today.
The New York Times chose to focus primarily on Pakistan’s role on the ground, confirming long-harbored suspicions that Pakistan may be propping up the Afghani insurgency even as it accepts more than $1 billion annually from the United States for supposedly aiding in the war. American suspicions have primarily landed on the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which has been thought to be playing a double game for some time and, in 2008, was confronted by Stephen Knapp, the CIA’s deputy director, with suspicion that the organization helped plot a suicide bombing on India’s embassy in Kabul.
Furthermore, the Times wrote about evidence that former ISI officers were participating in the Afghani insurgency and attempting to run a large network of suicide bombers. The ISI has also been tabbed in plots to kill Afghan officials and American troops.
Der Spiegel relates attempts by the White House to distance itself from the documents, stating that an e-mail stated that the period covered in them spans from January 2004 to December 2009 and that President Obama pledged increased resources and a new strategy in the area on December 1, 2009, precisely because of the myriad problems.
The German newspaper also wrote about intelligence agencies being rendered helpless by a flood of data, reporting every single thing that the Taliban is doing instead of attempting to find an end to the conflict, which has now been ongoing for almost nine years. Der Spiegel also wrote about fundamental flaws with American unmanned fighter drones, including unreliability that resulted in 38 crashed drones on military missions, putting soldiers at risk as they attempted to prevent the aircrafts’ information and weaponry from falling into the hands of the opposition. The apparent reason for this problem was that the drones were rushed into combat before being adequately tested.
The Guardian wrote about a “black ops force” named Task Force 373 (TF 373), which was used by the NATO coalition in Afghanistan to either kill targets or hold them without trial. The unit is also known for inflicting harm to civilians, however, making the coalition’s long-term mission in the country more difficult, including a firefight which resulted in seven dead and four wounded Afghan policemen and another that killed seven children in a madrasa. These two incidents were only part of a long-term pattern of hostility and concealment as far as TF 373 was concerned.
There have were 144 events of civilian casualties recorded in the documents, including some from air strikes. The documents state that US and UK protocol is to use shouts, waves, flares, warning shots and shots into the engine block before turning to lethal force, but the warning shots stage seems to end in death quite often. Also detailed was an event from March 2007, in which 19 unarmed civilians were killed and another 50 were wounded.
It should be no surprise, then, that the United States is “losing the battle for hearts and minds,” as the cultural rift between the two cultures routinely proves insurmountable for coalition forces.
Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers, said that the WikiLeaks documents are on par with his 1971 leak. The White House has responded to the documents by saying that they pose a potential threat to national security despite not containing any major new revelations. The Christian Science Monitor writes that the major issue the White House will have with the WikiLeaks documents isn’t national security, but instead is the way it will further taint perception of the war in America. Newsweek wrote that the documents actually released shockingly little new information and that there are so many documents that finding new information in them will actually be very difficult.