Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Afghanistan Papers, thanks to Wikileaks

Wikileaks today released over 75,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan... The Afghan War Diaries is the most significant archive about the reality of war to have ever been released during the course of a war. We hope the impact will lead to a comprehensive understanding of the war in Afghanistan and modern warfare in general... The Afghan War Diaries can be viewed in chronological order by over 100 categories... The reports can also be viewed by 'severity,' where severity is proportionate to the number of people killed, injured, or detained...

The Afghan War Diaries show how cover-ups start on the ground. When reporting their own activities US Units are inclined to classify civilian kills as insurgent kills, downplay the number of people killed or otherwise make excuses for themselves... This archive shows the vast range of small tragedies that are almost never reported by the press but which account for the overwhelming majority of deaths and injuries resulting from the war.

We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full.

Wikipedia: Wikileaks subsequently made the logs, some 91,731 documents covering the period between January 2004 and December 2009, available to The Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel, who published reports per previous agreement... The material revealed that, in general NATO forces in Afghanistan have made little progress in stabilizing the country.

This is a screen shot. For the interactive map go here.

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents... Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes... but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers... Bloody errors at civilians' expense... include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children... A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus... and Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

The documents' release comes at a time when calls for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are growing -- even in America... Shows of optimism seem cynical in light of the descriptions of the situation provided in the classified documents... 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.

The big news is that the Taliban have been using surface to air missiles... against helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, which has been kept very quiet... The conflict has clearly been going worse, for longer, than we've been led to believe, even correcting for the suspicion that we were being misled... The amount of friendly fire incidents is really high... The sheer number of civilians wounded and killed as a matter of course is depressing. From little girls getting run over by humvees to teenagers on bikes getting shot at roadblocks to entire families getting taken out by airstrikes... it makes you wonder how there can possibly be any goodwill left at all, any hearts and minds left to be won over.
Image source here.