The power of the internet to prick the most powerful government in the world, its corrupt war, its shameful allies (including Australia) and blow wide open the nature of the Afghan engagement:
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.
The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.
Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.
The war logs also detail:
”¢ How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.
”¢ How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
”¢ How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.
”¢ How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.
Washington is upset and rightly so; the entire basis of the war is shown to be a shambles:
The White House late Sunday condemned the leaking of what appear to be about 90,000 U.S. military records, as a handful of international media organizations that received access to the documents began to disclose their account of the war in Afghanistan.
In a statement, President Obama’s national security advisor, Marine Gen. James L. Jones, deplored the “disclosure of classified information” that he said could put the lives of Americans and U.S. partners at risk and threaten the nation’s security.
The website WikiLeaks, which posted the documents late Sunday, provided them ahead of time to the New York Times, the Guardian newspaper in London and the German magazine Der Spiegel, and journalists from those organizations asked the White House for comment. The Los Angeles Times and other Tribune newspapers have not thoroughly reviewed the documents.
According to the New York Times, the documents, which it received several weeks ago, refer to previously unreported incidents of Afghan civilian deaths in the NATO military operations.
The documents also appear to include classified cables and other communications among military leaders, and describe in detail long-reported U.S. fears that some intelligence officials in Pakistan were actually helping the Taliban in Afghanistan, even as the U.S. poured foreign aid into both countries.
According to the New York Times, the documents as a whole suggest that Pakistan has let representatives of its intelligence agency strategize with the Taliban and even plot to assassinate Afghan leaders.
Of particular note is that the documents reportedly say the Taliban has acquired surface-to-air missiles. If true, that could help explain recent crashes of NATO and U.S. helicopters in Afghanistan and could have a significant effect on ground operations.
The documents posted by WikiLeaks reportedly cover the period from January 2004 to December 2009, shortly before Obama announced a strategy of focusing on Al Qaeda and Taliban havens in the semiautonomous region of Pakistan along the Afghan border.
“Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the president ordered a three-month policy review and a change in strategy,” said one administration official, who couldn’t confirm that the documents were authentic but said that at least some accounts align with information given Obama and his staff last summer.