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Pentagon probe into Afghan leaks
Criminal investigation begins as Obama seeks to limit damage over leaked war papers.
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 02:35 GMT
The documents seen on the Wikileaks website are the biggest military leaks in US history [AFP]

The US defence department has launched a criminal investigation into the leaking of more than 90,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan, amid US government efforts to limit damage from what military officials have described as "dangerous" disclosures.

Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Barack Obama, the president, said he was
concerned about the massive leak, but the papers published by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks on Monday, did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the debate.

In his first public comments on the matter, Obama said the disclosure "could potentially jeopardise individuals or operations".

But he added: "While I'm concerned ... the fact is these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan."

US politicians on Capitol Hill have been divided over the significance of the documents, with some saying they serve as a wake-up call for the US to leave Afghanistan.

But Obama insisted the revelations justify his new military strategy and he urged politicians to approve $37bn in funds for the war effort.

Congress approval

IN DEPTH
  Reports reveal Afghan war details
  Ex-spy chief denies Taliban links
  Losing the east in Afghanistan
  Excerpts: A less encouraging story
  Leaked Afghan war files condemned
  Video: Ability of Afghan forces questioned
  Ex-ISI chief denies aiding Taliban
  Focus: Why the world needs Wikileaks
  Afghan forces' flaws exposed

Congress obliged later in the day as the House of Representatives took final action to approve the money - $33bn for the military and $4bn for a related civilian surge - months after the president had requested it.

The tally was 308-114 but most of the "no" votes came from Obama's own Democratic Party.

The documents published by Wikileaks detail allegations that US forces sought to cover up civilian deaths as well as US concern that Pakistan secretly aided Taliban fighters even as it took billions of dollars in US aid.

A collection of field intelligence and threat reports from before Obama ordered an increase of 30,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan, the documents also illustrated the Pentagon's bleak assessment of the war amid deteriorating security and a Taliban resurgence.

Congress however, has backed the war so far, and an early test of that continued support came when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Democratic Senator John Kerry, opened a hearing on the Afghan war.

At the hearing, few members mentioned the leak of documents but several expressed frustration at the lack of progress in improving Afghan governance and in drawing more ordinary Afghans away from the Taliban.

'Overhyped'

Many US politicians are sceptical over the continued war effort in Afghanistan [AFP]

Kerry also questioned why the Taliban, with fewer resources, is able to field fighters who are more committed than Afghan soldiers.

"What's going on here?'' Kerry asked.

In his only reference to the leak, Kerry called the material "overhyped,'' and said that it was released in violation of federal law.

Kit Bond, a Republican senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday that he was worried that the leaks would not stop "until we see someone in an orange jump suit,'' the uniform of many people in US prisons.

The army meanwhile is leading the Pentagon's inquiry into the source of the leak.

A federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press that the Justice Department was also helping in the investigation.

The US military's criminal investigative division previously led an investigation into Bradley Manning, an army intelligence specialist charged with leaking other material to Wikileaks.

Source:
Agencies
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