The logs of war: Do the Wikileaks documents really tell us anything new?

Posted By Blake Hounshell Share

Three news organizations -- the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel -- today published explosive reports on a treasure trove of more than 91,000 documents that were obtained by Wikileaks, the self-proclaimed whistleblower site.

I've now gone through the reporting and most of the selected documents (though not the larger data dump), and I think there's less here than meets the eye. The story that seems to be getting the most attention, repeating the longstanding allegation that Pakistani intelligence might be aiding the Afghan insurgents, offers a few new details but not much greater clarity. Both the Times and the Guardian are careful to point out that the raw reports in the Wikileaks archive often seem poorly sourced and present implausible information.

"[F]or all their eye-popping details," writes the Guardian's Declan Walsh, "the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity."

The Times' reporters seem somewhat more persuaded, noting that "many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable" and that their sources told them that "the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence."

Der Spiegel's reporting adds little, though the magazine's stories will probably have great political impact in Germany, as the Wikileaks folks no doubt intended. One story hones in on how an elite U.S. task force charged with hunting down Taliban and Al Qaeda targets operates from within a German base; another alleges that "The German army was clueless and naïve when it stumbled into the conflict," and that northern Afghanistan, where the bulk of German troops are based, is more violent than has been previously portrayed.

Otherwise, I'd say that so far the documents confirm what we already know about the war: It's going badly; Pakistan is not the world's greatest ally and is probably playing a double game; coalition forces have been responsible for far too many civilian casualties; and the United States doesn't have very reliable intelligence in Afghanistan.

I do think that the stories will provoke a fresh round of Pakistan-bashing in Congress, and possibly hearings. But the administration seems inclined to continue with its strategy of nudging Pakistan in the right direction, and is sending the message: Move along, nothing to see here.

A U.S. military official in Islamabad told the American Forces Press Service: "The Pakistani military deserves our respect, and frankly, they deserve our support." Special Representative Richard Holbrooke endorsed the recent warming of ties between Islamabad and Kabul. In his statement condeming the leak of the documents, National Security Advisor Jim Jones said, "[T]he Pakistani government – and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services – must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups." And finally, the White House sent around an eight-page document containing examples of President Obama and other U.S. officials urging Pakistan to turn decisively against the militants.

The other message coming from the administration, as noted in an email from White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, is: It's not our fault. "The period of time covered in these documents (January 2004-December 2009) is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy," Vietor wrote in an email published by the Times.

In this case, I'd say that's spin I can believe in.

 
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SHACKELFORD

9:10 PM ET

July 25, 2010

This behavior from wikileaks is nothing new either

They are simply trying to grab attention because they are desperately short of money. Considering wikileak's habit of making stuff up to inflate their own importance, this is typical behavior. The result of this document dump does nothing to shed any real light on the core problem (Afghanistan, and to a lesser degree, Pakistan). The only real effect will be to hurt relations between allies, which is probably Julian Assange's goal anyway.

-Shack

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WASLOVE

4:18 AM ET

July 26, 2010

Why is the State department

Why is the State department bewildered and condemning whats leaked, if its not real and is infact made up by wikileaks?

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SHACKELFORD

10:46 AM ET

July 26, 2010

Follow the link

So, if you follow the link in my original post, it is not a matter of making up the source material, but of dramatically mis-characterizing it, and saying that it shows something that it does not.

-Shack

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AND REW

9:23 PM ET

July 25, 2010

Nothing new

There's nothing new in this document. Nevertheless it's a good time to push for more information from the government. The situation is humiliating.

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CLEARTHINKING1

2:45 AM ET

July 26, 2010

FACTS ALL AMERICANS MUST KNOW:

FACTS ALL AMERICANS MUST KNOW:

1. Pakistan is a dysfunctional & failed state with the official name: ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN. Only American aid keeps it going.

2. Billions of American tax dollars are given to the Pakistani government. The money is then given to the Taliban & islamic terrorists.

3. American soldiers and many innocents are then killed by our own money.

4. Our government, military, and intelligence has known this for many years, as the NY Times article proves.

5. Something smells fishy. American troops are being killed by Taliban coming from Pakistan, yet we call Pakistan our ally.

6. Unlike Vietnam or Korea, the country behind the curtain is not China or USSR, but the American & UK foreign policy establishment itself. Behind Pakistan , there is only American tax dollars, American military hardware, & American training. What the hell is going on?

SUMMARY: AMERICAN TAX DOLLARS GO TO PAKISTAN. THE MONEY IS THEN GIVEN TO THE TALIBAN AND ISLAMIC TERRORIST GROUPS. WE ARE PAYING FOR THE KILLING OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS.

Who's the traitor?

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DRKRISHNAKUMARICHALLA

9:19 PM ET

July 26, 2010

Wikileaks- nothing new about the news

I fully agree. America very well knows Pakistan is taking all its aid money & using it only to buy arms to use it against India. India provided enough information & proof to the US regarding this truth. ISI of Pakistan is helping Taliban to fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan. Even after knowing fully well what is going on still if the US wants to become a fool who can say "no"? Let it go ahead & suffer more. Let the US give more money to Pakistan to kill Nato's solders. US can never win a war with Taliban as long as it doesn't realize the mistake it is making.

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IPPON1

2:49 AM ET

July 26, 2010

I was shocked how callous NATO forces

were in denying and covering up civilian deaths.

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VALKYRIE

9:16 AM ET

July 26, 2010

Go WikiLeaks!

I am glad that there are organizations like WikiLeaks to bring out the truth.

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AURANGZEB KHAN III

10:50 AM ET

July 26, 2010

Focusing on Pakistan alone is tantamount to discrimination

Focusing on Pakistan alone is tantamount to discrimination and bias.

The real reason for America’s problems in Afghanistan is America’s OCCUPATION of Afghanistan. If America was not occupying Afghanistan then America would not have any problems in Afghanistan.

This is simple cause and effect.

Whatever country America has invaded and occupied has naturally affected all the neigbouring countries. American occupation of Palestine via Jews has deleteriously affected not only Palestine but also neighbouring Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

American occupation of Iraq for the Jews has deleteriously affected not only Iraq but also neighbouring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Similarly American occupation of Afghanistan for empire building reasons has deleteriously affected not only Afghanistan but also neighbouring Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

International borders are not hermetic seals. American invasions and occupations naturally affect and involve all the neighbouring countries to various degrees. To expect otherwise would be living in fool’s paradise.

One should not conveniently forget that the extra focusing on Pakistan alone is also being pedaled by Hindoo India and Hindoo Indian lobbying groups in America as these have 60+ years of animosity against Pakistan and are just grinding their axes.

lalqila.wordpress.com

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LIVITY

5:08 PM ET

July 26, 2010

Blame the Jews

they are a really easy scapegoat for pretty much any problem you're having. Is your cereal stale? That's because of the Zionist scheme to poison all breakfast eaters. The stale taste is actually coming from tiny microchips that turn you into hasbara agents. I'll be watching your future comments for any accidental defenses of Israel.

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MARTY MARTEL

3:07 PM ET

July 26, 2010

US deserves to be screwed by Pakistan

After having poured billions of dollars in aid, US deserves to be treated with such contempt by Pakistani establishment (Pakistani Army, ISI and Government) since US has intentionally ignored Pakistani complicity in Afghan insurgency until now.

Files leaked by Wikileaks more or less corroborate ‘The sun in the sky’ report published by Harvard Professor Matt Waldman from London School of Economics on 6/13/2010.

That report states that “support for the Afghan Taliban is ‘official Pakistani ISI policy’ and is backed at the highest levels of Pakistan’s civilian administration. Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude. There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign in Afghanistan.”

According to Afghan Taliban commanders’ interviews with Matt Waldman, the Pakistani ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the Taliban insurgency movement. The Afghan Taliban commanders also say that ISI gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In the words of these Afghan Taliban commanders, this is ‘as clear as the sun in the sky’.

The ISI is said to compensate families of suicide bombers to the tune of 200,000 Pakistani rupees, claims the report. Thus US AID TO BANKRUPT PAKISTAN FINANCES THE DEATH OF US/NATO SOLDIERS in Afghanistan. So in a way, US is financing the death of its OWN troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistani government issued its usual denials just as it had denied umpteen times the existence of Mullah Mohammed Omar’s ‘Quetta Shura Taliban (QST)’ in the provincial capital Quetta of Baluchistan. But General Stanley McChrystal called QST as the biggest threat to US Afghan mission in his report to President Obama in August, 2009.

Pakistan has denied presence of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil umpteen times and just yesterday Adm Mike Mullen repeated in Islamabad that Osama is hiding in a very secure place in Pakistan.

The most breath-taking part of this sordid saga is that US is NOT holding Pakistan responsible for sheltering, protecting and supporting Haqqani’s HQN network and Mullah Omar’s QST network all these years while those networks have been causing daily deaths of US/NATO soldiers ever since 2002 even though Pakistan was SUPPOSED to have joined US fight against same Taliban back in 2001!

Can American CIA not know what Matt Waldman knows? How come Obama administration is continuing Bush’s mollycoddling of Pakistan with such incriminating evidence against Pakistan’s double game? How can US mission in Afghanistan succeed if Obama administration continues to ignore such Pakistani duplicity like Bush had done it before Obama?

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MERVYN

9:46 PM ET

July 26, 2010

al qaeda & taleban are not the same

us policy was doomed from the beginning, by mixing al qaeda and taleban into same category.

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