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The Guardian, July 28, 2010

Afghanistan war logs: tensions increase after revelation of more leaked files

Coalition commanders hid civilian deaths, war logs reveal

By David Leigh and Matthew Taylor

Tensions between the US, Afghanistan and Paistan were further strained today after the leak of thousands of military documents about the Afghan war.

As members of the US Congress raised questions about Pakistan's alleged support for the Taliban, officials in Islamabad and Kabul also traded angry accusations on the same issue.

Further disclosures reveal more evidence of attempts by coalition commanders to cover up civilian casualties in the conflict.

The details emerge from more than 90,000 secret US military files, covering six years of the war, which caused a worldwide uproar when they were leaked yesterday.

Mr Gul’s (former Pakistani spy master ) name appears in about 10 of roughly 180 classified US files that allege Pakistan’s intelligence service supported Afghan militants fighting Nato forces.
The reports, which have not been independently confirmed, allege the ISI supplied 1,000 motorcycles to the Haqqani network of Afghan fighters to stage suicide attacks. Mr Gul is alleged to have ordered roadside bomb attacks on Nato forces in 2006 and conspired with Afghan militants to plot the kidnap of United Nations officials.
Financial Times, Jul, 28, 2010

The war logs show how a group of US marines who went on a shooting rampage after coming under attack near Jalalabad in 2007 recorded false information about the incident, in which they killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded a further 50.

In another case that year, the logs detail how US special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a "high-value individual" was hiding, after "ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area". A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died.

Other files in the secret archive reveal:

• Coalition commanders received numerous intelligence reports about the whereabouts and activity of Osama bin Laden between 2004 and 2009, even though the CIA chief has said there has been no precise information about the al-Qaida leader since 2003.

• The hopelessly ineffective attempts of US troops to win the "hearts and minds" of Afghans.

• How a notorious criminal was appointed chief of police in the south-western province of Farrah.

Speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London yesterday, Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, the website which initially published the war logs, said: "It is up to a court to decide clearly whether something is in the end a crime. That said, on the face of it, there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material."

Four days after it was first approached by the Guardian, the British Ministry of Defence said it was still unable to give an account of two questionable clusters of civilian shootings by British troops detailed in the American logs.

They were alleged to have taken place in Kabul in a month in 2007 when a detachment of the Coldstream Guards was patrolling, and in the southern province of Helmand during a six-month tour of duty by Royal Marine commandos at the end of 2008. The MoD said: "We are currently examining our records to establish the facts in the alleged civilian casualty incidents raised."

The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, told the BBC that the leaked documents could "poison the atmosphere in Afghanistan" but at the same time insisted they would not affect British troops:

Writing in the Guardian, Eric Joyce, a former soldier and parliamentary aide to the former Labour defence secretary Bob Ainsworth, described the leaked documents as a "game changer", adding that some of the questions raised were "stunning in their enormity".

The former Liberal Democrat leader and spokesman on defence and foreign affairs, Sir Menzies Campbell, said the documents showed how difficult it would be for UK troops to leave Afghanistan in 2015, the date set by David Cameron.

"The leaked documents show just how awesome the task will be to bring the Afghan police and army to a condition where they can be responsible for security," said Campbell.

Amnesty International called for reforms to the recording of civilian casualties after a row broke out over an incident in which the Afghan government says 45 villagers were killed in a rocket attack. The coalition disputes that it was responsible. Amnesty called on Nato "to provide a clear, unified system of accounting for civilian casualties in Afghanistan".

Daniel Ellsberg compared the publication of the war logs to the Pentagon Papers, which he leaked to the New York Times in 1971. "The Pentagon Papers did not stop or even affect the war but affected public opinion a great deal. Are we really going to do better with another $300bn [spent on the war in Afghanistan] on more bombs, more special forces, more drones? The Taliban are not going to quit."

The director of the military thinktank the Royal United Services Institute, Professor Michael Clarke, said in London: "There is no doubt that the leaks are politically pretty damaging. The papers give an impression of a lack of military discrimination in how operations were conducted."

The Pentagon said it was conducting an investigation into whether information in the logs placed coalition forces or their informants in danger.

Last night President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, claimed the logs published by the Wikileaks website posed "a very real threat" to US forces: "It's not the content … there are names, there are operations, there are sources, all of that information out in the public domain has the potential to do harm."

The Guardian was allowed to investigate the logs for several weeks ahead of publication, along with the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel. The three have published excerpts from the documents which do not pose a risk to informants or military operations.

Category: US-NATO, HR Violations, Corruption - Views: 6046


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