"After nine years of warfare, the chaos threatens to overwhelm.
A war fought ostensibly for the hearts and minds of Afghans cannot be won like this."
Wikileaks has released a 6-year archive comprising 92,000 documents from the Bush and Obama years that reveal the war in Afghanistan is far more grim than Western leaders claim. The Wikileaks archive was given weeks ago to The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel on their agreement to embargo the material until today.
The documents are said to include several eye openers. Here's the assessment of The Guardian:
...the collective picture that emerges is a very disturbing one. We today learn of nearly 150 incidents in which coalition forces, including British troops, have killed or injured civilians, most of which have never been reported; of hundreds of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops, two armies which are supposed to be allies; of the existence of a special forces unit whose tasks include killing Taliban and al-Qaida leaders; of the slaughter of civilians caught by the Taliban's improvised explosive devices; and of a catalogue of incidents where coalition troops have fired on and killed each other or fellow Afghans under arms.
Reading these logs, many may suspect there is sometimes a casual disregard for the lives of innocents. A bus that fails to slow for a foot patrol is raked with gunfire, killing four passengers and wounding 11 others. The documents tell how, in going after a foreign fighter, a special forces unit ended up with seven dead children. The infants were not their immediate priority. A report marked "Noforn" (not for foreign elements of the coalition) suggests their main concern was to conceal the mobile rocket system that had just been used.
In these documents, Iran's and Pakistan's intelligence agencies run riot. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is linked to some of the war's most notorious commanders. The ISI is alleged to have sent 1,000 motorbikes to the warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Logar provinces, and to have been implicated in a sensational range of plots, from attempting to assassinate President Hamid Karzai to poisoning the beer supply of western troops. These reports are unverifiable and could be part of a barrage of false information provided by Afghan intelligence.
...However you cut it, this is not an Afghanistan that either the US or Britain is about to hand over gift-wrapped with pink ribbons to a sovereign national government in Kabul. Quite the contrary. After nine years of warfare, the chaos threatens to overwhelm. A war fought ostensibly for the hearts and minds of Afghans cannot be won like this.
The New York Times reports that the documents cast light on Pakistan's shady support of the insurgency:
Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants...
The documents... ...suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.
Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.
...The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.
What effect will the disclosure and analyses of these documents have? They'll certainly make it a little harder to justify this misconceived and haplessly conducted war. These revelations will clearly undermine the credibility of the military and political leadership championing the war and its continuation. They will also bolster the war's critics by officially corroborating much of what they've been saying all along.