Last night WikiLeaks published the largest single disclosure of military documents in U.S. history. The 91,000+ page dump represents a different view of the Afghanistan War than we have been told and represent a timeframe from January 2004 to December 2009, right before President Obama announced the new strategy.
Here’s a few various tidbits from the release.
The documents disclose for the first time that Taliban insurgents appear to have used portable, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles to shoot down U.S. helicopters. Heat-seeking missiles, which the United States provided to the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters known as mujaheddin in the 1980s, helped inflict heavy losses on the Soviet Union until it withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 1989.
One report from the spring of 2007 refers to witnesses who saw what appeared to be a heat-seeking missile destroy a CH-47 transport helicopter. The Times first unearthed the document in its review of the files. The Chinook crash killed five Americans, a British citizen and a Canadian. Even though the initial U.S. report stated that the helicopter was “engaged and struck with a missile,” a NATO spokesman suggested that small-arms fire was responsible for bringing down the helicopter.
Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.
• 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 bombs.
(The Guardian also has a great resource for finding different parts of the documents and their reporting on them).
The White House is in typical “deny and blast” mode over the leaks:
White House National Security Adviser James Jones issued a statement that begins: “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.
“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.
But the big question remains; what does this do to President Obama? I’ve been reading a lot of different blogs and comments this morning and the right appears to be painting this is a big failure on the Obama Administration. That’s a rather interesting way to look at it, considering the logs only go up to the new strategy and mostly cover the war George Bush ran. Of course when you try to point that out you get the typical “there the left goes blaming Bush again” meme.
This could turn into a “teachable moment” for President Obama though. Maybe it’s time to announce a totally new strategy in dealing with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I believe it’s time to pull our troops out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and go with tactical forces stationed in the area that can respond on a moments notice of new intel. This isn’t rolling up the carpets, but rather a major shift in strategy. We are dealing with only a handful of bad people in countries with millions of people. In that situation it might be better to try the radical policy shift of special forces/tactical responses instead of the brunt force of the U.S. military.
Whatever ends up happening though, this week is starting off very interesting and I expect it will continue to get more interesting as the week goes on and people tear through the documents.