The Afghanistan War Logs

Someone has leaked six years worth of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan through a website called WikiLeaks.org. 

White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, and National Security Advisor, James Jones, have both condemned the leaks.  The White House is also using them to explain why the President ordered the increase in troops. But what do they really show?  The Afghanistan War Logs show that there are probably a lot more civilian casualties than we thought; the insurgents have weapons that can shoot down our military aircraft; and there is a lot of corruption by warlords and government in Afghanistan.   There is also information that at least part of the government of Pakistan has been aiding the Taliban.  Is any of this really new?  Has anything changed since December?  I think the answer to both questions is “no.”

The most interesting information to emerge is from the Guardian.

The shadow of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, hangs heavily over the US-led coalition’s campaign in Afghanistan. Again and again, the secret watchers of American military intelligence, whose furtive and often confused attempts at information gathering are collated in the 2004-2009 war logs, glimpse the hidden hand of the al-Qaida chief or catch a tantalising whiff of his whereabouts, only for the trail to turn cold and peter out.

Reportedly a high-level meeting was held in Quetta, Pakistan, where six suicide bombers were given orders for an operation in northern Afghanistan. Two persons have been given targets in Kunduz, two in Mazar-e-Sharif and the last two are said to come to Faryab,” the report claimed.It went on: “These meetings take place once every month, and there are usually about 20 people present. The place for the meeting alternates between Quetta and villages (NFDG) [no further details given] on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The top four people in these meetings are Mullah Omar [the Taliban leader], Osama bin Laden, Mullah Dadullah and Mullah [Baradar]. “The six foreigners who have been given the assignment have each been given $50,000 [£32,000] to conduct the attacks, and they have been promised that their families will be taken care of.”

So are we really fighting in Afghanistan and trying to navigate a very complicated cultural and political situation because George W. Bush lost interest in pursuring bin Laden?  We now seem to be the outsiders trying to impose a solution instead of fighting terrorism.  I keep waiting for someone to talk about winning hearts and minds like in Vietnam.  Reports are that many Afghani’s don’t like either President Karzai or the American troops.

John Nichols writes in the Nation

The echo you are hearing is that of the Nixon administration responding to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Indeed, as Dan Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers says: “I’m very impressed by the release. It is the first release in 39 years or 40 years, since I first gave the Pentagon papers to the Senate, of the scale of the Pentagon papers.”

 We can only hope that Obama and his aides have read enough history to recognize that Nixon’s over-reaction to the Pentagon Papers began a process that would lead — at least in part — to a House Judiciary Committee vote to impeach him and the only presidential resignation in the country’s history.

I’ve always thought that the President’s strategy was to increase the troops, tough it out until 2011, and then start leaving.  I hope that these revelations push him harder in that direction.

And I am very proud of the reaction of Senator John Kerry.  John Nichols again

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, did a whole lot better than the administration.

 “However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Kerry, whose discomfort with the Afghanistan operation has grown increasingly evident. “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.”

 Kerry should hold hearings with regard to the Afghanistan War Logs.

As a bonus, here is a short history of the War in Afghanistan from the New York Times.

The Conflict in Afghanistan

  • 1979 The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. Mujahedeen — Islamic fighters — from across the globe, including Osama bin Laden, come to fight Soviet forces.
  • 1989 Last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan.
  • 1996 The Taliban take control of Afghanistan, imposing fundamentalist Islamic law. Osama bin Laden takes refuge in the country.
  • Sept. 2001 After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush gives the Taliban an ultimatum to hand over bin Laden; the Taliban refuse, and in October the U.S. leads a campaign that drives the Taliban out of major Afghan cities by the end of the year.
  • 2002 Hamid Karzai becomes interim president of Afghanistan. The Taliban continue to wage guerrilla warfare near the border with Pakistan.
  • 2004 New constitution is ratified, making Afghanistan an Islamic state with a strong president. Later, Mr. Karzai wins the country’s first presidential election.
  • Feb. 2009 President Obama orders 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
  • Aug. 2009 President Karzai wins re-election in a vote marred by fraud.
  • Dec. 2009 President Obama issues orders to send 30,000 troops in 2010, bringing the total American force to about 100,000.
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