Afghan war doc­u­ments de­tail U.S. strug­gles

web­site re­leases trove of clas­si­fied re­ports

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE -

A six-year ar­chive of clas­si­fied mil­i­tary doc­u­ments made pub­lic Sun­day of­fers an un­var­nished, ground-level pic­ture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many re­spects more grim than the of­fi­cial portrayal.

The se­cret doc­u­ments, to be re­leased on the In­ter­net by an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Wik­iLeaks, are a daily diary of an Amer­i­can-led force of­ten starved for re­sources and at­ten­tion as it strug­gled against an in­sur­gency that grew larger, bet­ter co­or­di­nated and more deadly each year.

The New York Times, the Bri­tish news­pa­per The Guardian and the Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel were given ac­cess to the vo­lu­mi­nous records sev­eral weeks ago on the con-

Tal­iban say they killed a U.S. sailor and caught an­other, A6

Con­tin­ued from A di­tion that they not re­port on the ma­te­rial be­fore Sun­day.

The doc­u­ments — about 92,000 re­ports span­ning parts of two ad­min­is­tra­tions from Jan­uary 2004 through De­cem­ber 2009 — il­lus­trate why, af­ter the United States has spent al­most $300 bil­lion on the war in Afghanistan, the Tal­iban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new Amer­i­can com­man­der in Afghanistan, Gen. David Pe­traeus, tries to re­verse the lag­ging war ef­fort, the doc­u­ments sketch a con­flict ham­strung by an Afghan govern­ment, po­lice force and army of ques­tion­able loy­alty and com­pe­tence, and by a Pak­istani mil­i­tary that ap­pears at best un­co­op­er­a­tive and at worst to work from the shad­ows as an un­spo­ken ally of the very in­sur­gent forces the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion is try­ing to de­feat.

The pub­li­ca­tion of this ma­te­rial comes as Congress and the pub­lic grow in­creas­ingly skep­ti­cal of the deep­en­ing U.S. in­volve­ment in Afghanistan and its chances for suc­cess as next year’s dead­line to be­gin with­draw­ing troops looms.

The re­ports shed light on some el­e­ments of the war that have been largely hid­den from the pub­lic eye:

The Tal­iban have used por­ta­ble heat-seek­ing mis­siles against al­lied air­craft, a fact that has not been pub­licly dis­closed by the mil­i­tary. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mu­ja­hedeen de­feat the Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion in the 1980s.

Se­cret com­mando units work from a “cap­ture/kill list” of about 70 top in­sur­gent com­man­ders. These mis­sions, which have been stepped up un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, claim no­table suc­cesses but have some­times gone wrong, killing civil­ians and stok­ing Afghan re­sent­ment.

The mil­i­tary em­ploys more and more drone air­craft to sur­vey the bat­tle­field and strike tar­gets in Afghanistan, al­though their per­for­mance is less im­pres­sive than of­fi­cially por­trayed. Some crash or col­lide, forc­ing Amer­i­can troops to un­der­take risky re­trieval mis­sions be­fore the Tal­iban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

The Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency has ex­panded para­mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in­side Afghanistan. The units launch am­bushes, or­der airstrikes and con­duct raids. From 2001 to 2008, the CIA paid the bud­get of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a vir­tual sub­sidiary. in­for­ma­tion.

There are fleet­ing re­minders of how the war be­gan in the oc­ca­sional ref­er­ences to the elu­sive Osama bin Laden. In some re­ports he is said to be at­tend­ing meet­ings in Quetta, Pak­istan. His money man is said to be fly­ing from Iran to North Korea to buy weapons. Bin Laden has sup­pos­edly or­dered a sui­cide at­tack against Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai. These re­ports all seem sec­ond­hand at best. In 2008, 0 Green Berets from one Spe­cial Forces unit were awarded the Sil­ver Star for their ac­tions in bat­tle in Nuris­tan Prov­ince, Afghanistan. Com­man­dos have had a ma­jor role in the Afghan war.

Sgt. Corey T. Den­nis

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