The U.S. condemned as “irresponsible” the disclosure of about 92,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan covering the years 2004 through 2009.
National Security Adviser James Jones said the release of the documents by the website Wikileaks could put lives at risk and threaten national security.
The New York Times said the reports show the difficulties of fighting a war while hamstrung by “an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence” and by a Pakistani military that at times appeared to be helping the insurgents the U.S. is trying to defeat.
The Times said it obtained the documents several weeks ago from Wikileaks. The Guardian in the U.K. and Der Spiegel in Germany also published articles online that they said were based on the documents.
“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” Jones said in a statement issued by the White House yesterday. Wikileaks “made no effort to contact” the administration about the documents, he said.
Jones said the documents cover the period leading up to President Barack Obama’s change of direction in the war in Afghanistan, which was begun by former President George W. Bush’s administration after the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaeda.
“On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe- havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” Jones said.
The Times said the reports suggest that members of Pakistan’s spy service had met with members of the Taliban to organize militias to fight against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and plot assassinations of Afghan leaders.
“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement. “Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”
Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, called the leak of the documents “irresponsible” in an e-mail that said they reflected “nothing more than single-source comments and rumors.”
The Pakistani government is “following a clearly laid-out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists,” Haqqani said. “The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are strategic partners and are jointly endeavoring to defeat al- Qaeda and its Taliban allies militarily and politically.”
The documents show that Taliban insurgents have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, something that hadn’t been disclosed by the military, the Times said. The reports also provide information about secret commando units seeking to capture or kill top insurgent leaders, and the use of CIA paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan, the newspaper said.
The reports suggest that the Taliban’s use of heat-seeking missiles “has been neither common nor especially effective; usually the missiles missed,” the Times said.
The Times called the documents an “incomplete record” of the war. While the Times said the documents don’t contradict official accounts of the war, the newspaper also said at that times the U.S. military had made misleading public statements.
As examples, the Times cited attribution of the downing of a helicopter to conventional weapons instead of heat-seeking missiles and giving Afghans credit for missions carried out by special operations commandos.]
The Guardian newspaper said on its website the documents show that allied troops have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents. In addition, it said, “Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighboring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency,” referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Der Spiegel magazine said on its website that all three publications vetted the documents, compared them with independent reports and concluded they were authentic. The reports were mostly written by sergeants, Der Spiegel said.
‘A Gloomy Picture’
“Nearly nine years after the start of the war, they paint a gloomy picture,” Der Spiegel’s report said. “They portray Afghan security forces as the hapless victims of Taliban attacks. They also offer a conflicting impression of the deployment of drones, noting that America’s miracle weapons are also entirely vulnerable.”
Jones said the disclosure wouldn’t alter the White House course on the almost 10-year war.
“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,” Jones said.
The Times said it took “care not to publish information that would harm national security interests.” The newspaper said it withheld “names of operatives in the field and informants cited in the reports” and “avoided anything that might compromise American or allied intelligence-gathering methods.”
The Times described Wikileaks as “an organization devoted to exposing secrets of all kinds” and said the group provided the publications with the documents “several weeks ago” on condition that nothing be published until July 25.
(Source: Bloomberg News)