Tens of thousands of classified military documents made public Sunday give a first-hand account of the grim realities of the war in Afghanistan, including challenges faced by U.S. troops in battling an increasingly sophisticated Taliban force and collusion of Pakistan's military intelligence agency with Afghan insurgents. The more than 90,000 secret military and diplomatic reports, covering the period from January 2004 through December 2009, were obtained by an organization called WikiLeaks and released to the New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel several weeks ago on the condition they not be published before Sunday night. The documents were subsequently posted on the WikiLeaks website.
The New York Times reports on documents that detail a nexus between Pakistan's intelligence agency and Taliban insurgents, including Pakistani intelligence agents meeting with Taliban leaders to plan attacks against U.S. forces and assassinate Afghan leaders. The reports also describe cooperation between Pakistani intelligence and al Qaida fighters to wage attacks against American troops, including arming the Taliban with motorbikes for suicide attacks. The documents also detail several instances of collaboration between former ISI chief retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul and Afghan mujahideen, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, who have been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops in recent years. Gul has denied the reports as "fiction." Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Hassan Haqqani, has also denied reports of ties between Taliban and al Qaida fighters and Pakistani intelligence agency : "These reports reflect nothing more than single-source comments and rumors, which abound on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and are often proved wrong after deeper examination."
The Times also reports that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is much worse than officially portrayed by the U.S. government. It chronicles a story on the Combat Outpost Keating, a U.S. military outpost created in 2006 in eastern Afghanistan to fight the insurgency and connect local allies to the central government in Kabul. The military outpost is reported to be representative of the challenges facing U.S. troops in battling the insurgency including "low troop levels, unreliable Afghan partners and an insurgency that has grown in skill, determination and its ability to menace." Taliban fighters have been reported to use heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles to shoot down U.S. helicopters.
According to Der Spiegel, the war logs shed new light on targeted killings of top al Qaida and Taliban leadership by the elite U.S. Task Force 373. The unit consists of members of the Navy Seals and the Delta Force and reports directly to the Pentagon instead of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The fact that the task force has a unit stationed on a German base in Mazar-e-Sharif could prove potentially embarrassing for the German government, Der Spiegel says.
The reports also highlight how growing civilian casualties have alienated the local Afghan population from the U.S.-led allied war effort against the al Qaeda and other terrorists. National Security Adviser James Jones has criticized WikiLeaks for releasing the documents in a statement: "WikiLeaks made no effort to contact us about these documents - the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted. These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people."