Excerpts: A less encouraging story

Leaked documents offer gloomy insight into Afghan war but largely confirm public narrative.

    Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was often portrayed as weak and ineffective [EPA]

    Taken individually, the 90,000-plus classified reports published by Wikileaks say little about the war in Afghanistan. They are ground-level reports, snapshots of individual incidents - a firefight, a meeting, an arrest.

    Taken together, they certainly paint a gloomy picture of the war effort in Afghanistan.

    The Afghan army and police are often unreliable partners for US and Nato soldiers; troops are sometimes ill-equipped and under-resourced; and the Taliban, once significantly weakened, are clearly a resurgent force, highlighted by hundreds of firefights and other "direct contacts".

    But many of the revelations contained within the Wikileaks documents are already public knowledge.

    One example: There are 7,202 reports of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Wikileaks document.

    That is a stunning number - but also an unsurprising one. IEDs have long been acknowledged as the insurgency’s deadliest weapon against Nato soldiers.

    Another example: Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is often portrayed as vain and ineffective, but he has been viewed as an unreliable partner for years.

    It was just three months ago, after all, that he was accusing Western officials of rigging last year's presidential election and threatening to join the Taliban.

    The Wikileaks documents offer a detailed record of the mismangement of the West's nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.

    In terms of shifting the public debate, though, it is hard to imagine them rising to the level of the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam-era documents that detailed the bombing of Laos and Cambodia and other illegal US activities in Southeast Asia.

    Below are some examples of the issues highlighted by the documents: Karzai's management of the Afghan government; the readiness of Afghan army and police forces; and the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan.

    Afghan army and police: Friendly fire

    The Afghan army and police have long been criticised as untrained and undisciplined. Dozens of reports document "friendly fire" shootings between soldiers and police, like this example from February 2009.

    While at the Paktika ANP HQ VB 806 674 2xANP by the names of Mangal Som of Mohammad Hanif and Ahmad Zia some of Khan Mohammad were conducting horseplay with their service arms when they accidentally shot the NDS director Mahmoud son of Sayed Ghulam and logsitics officer Ajmal son of Aqagul. The wounded ANP were first brought to Paktika PR for treatment. Logistics officer was RDT. NDS director was transported to FOB Sharona for treatment and then MEDEVAC'd to SAL. Perpetrators were arrested. (7 February 2009)

    Civilian casualties

    A number of reports describe, in almost clinical detail, incidents that led to civilian deaths. One report, from September 2008, describes a botched attempt to destroy unexploded ordnance (UXO), presumably left behind by insurgents. The bomb (a GBU-31) malfunctions and lands on a house.

    At 0608Z in response to a known UXO pointed at Zambar (107mm rocket from the D2 SIGACT) TF GLORY requested BONE 1-1 drop a GBU 31 IOT render it NMC. During the drop the tailkit of the GBU 31 malfunctioned causing the GBU to drop unguided into a ballistic trajectory. The GBU dropped into a qualat at grid 42SWC 76390 15910 2788 meters at a 270 degree heading from the intended target. Still working casualties and QRF from FOB Salerno.

    UPDATE: As of 0709Z Medevac birds and DMR (3xUH 60's) will be used for QRF insertion from SAL into a NSHLZ. 0H 58 QRF are also over the site IOT secure the NSHLZ. Still pending approval. (9 September 2008)

    Dismissing competent officials

    Abdul Satter Murad, the governor of Kapisa province, was suddenly fired on July 15, likely because of comments to a Newsweek reporter that were critical of Karzai. Nato worried that Karzai was putting his own ego ahead of good governance.

    This unexpected change in Provincial leadership will leave a significant vacuum in Kapisa. Gov Murad had established a strong and effective Provincial Development Council. There are currently 30 ongoing projects under way and nearly a dozen more being developed in Kapisa. It will be extremely challenging for the new Governor to establish himself with the PDC and meet the IROA ANDS goal of creating a new PDP by Aug 07. Additionally, Gov Murads absence may impact planned joint CF and ANSF operations in the Tagab valley in the coming month. (15 July 2007)

    "Karzai is weak"

    Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Nangarhar province, held a counter-narcotics planning meeting at his office. The meeting was described as "typically unorganised," and included some comments dismissive of Karzai.

    The Gov promoted spraying (both air and ground) to eradicate poppy. I questioned him if Pres Karzai was also supporting this position and if he has the aircraft/equipment for air application, to which he replied that Karzai is weak, I will do in Nangarhar what I have to do. As to the question of air spraying, he quickly responded that ground spraying would be approved by him, bypassing the question (he has neither the planes, pilots nor equipment).

    [...] The Govs main complaint was the lack of financial support by the central government for his CN campaign. Waving a 2 thick stack of US $20 bills for emphasis, he claimed that he had to spend his own $10,000 because Karzai had only sent him $5,000 to pay for the travel and subsistence for the PC and Govs staff to travel throughout Nangarhar to spread their CN message. (16 October 2007)

    General Hamid Gul

    Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, allegedly met with "senior members of the Taliban leadership" to co-ordinate attacks on Nato troops.

    On approximately 17 December 2006, following a meeting between senior members of the TALIBAN leadership in NOWSHAHRA, Pakistan (GEOCOORD NOT AVAILABLE), which included General Hamid GUL, the former Chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate of Pakistan. During this meeting GUL claimed he dispatched three unidentified individuals to KABUL City (GEOCOORD: 42S WD 15172 19937) to carry out IED attacks during the Eid celebration. GUL instructed two of the individuals to plant IEDs along the roads frequently utilized by Government of Afghanistan (GOA) and ISAF vehicles. The third individual is to carry out a suicide attack utilizing a suicide vest against GOA or ISAF entities. Reportedly GUL's final comment to the three individuals was make the snow warm in KABUL, basically telling them to set KABUL aflame.

    (N/I R) The three individuals traveled from SOROBI (GEOCOORD: 42S WD 6817430407), SOROBI District KABUL Province to their current location in the MUSAYI District, KABUL Province, (GEOCOORD NOT AVAILABLE) NFI. The two individuals tasked with planting the IEDs will employ two types of IEDs, these being remotely detonated IEDs and a supposedly new Chinese made magnetic mine. The three individuals tasked with conducting these attacks will be assisted in entering KABUL City by a group of five unidentified individuals, described as a KABUL Province criminal gang that is associated with General AMANULLAH GOUZAR, the current KABUL City Chief of Police.

    (N/I R) The Chinese made magnetic mines were described as a metal plate with a magnet attached to one side and the explosives to the other. The mines are to be planted on roads frequently used by ISAF and GOA forces throughout KABUL, utilizing the snow as camouflage. Reportedly, once a vehicle drives over the camouflaged plated mine the magnetic side will attach itself to the passing vehicle. As the vehicle departs the area one of the unidentified individuals acting as a spotter will contact the second individual, who will be located on higher ground overlooking the road, via a cellular phone notifying him the package was picked up. In addition, the spotter will also relay the vehicle description to include its license plate number or vehicle description. Once the second individual receives this information and observes the vehicle he will then remotely detonate the mine. GUL reportedly has received approximately 50 of these mines in order for them to carry out their operation. (17 December 2006)

    Pakistan's motives

    US, European and Afghan officials have long viewed Islamabad's motives with suspicion. This report, from January 2007, summarises the beginning of a madrassa reconstruction project in Ghazni province. The governor of the province, Mirajuddin Patan, mentions that Pakistan's ISI has been involved in building religious schools.

    The Governor stated that the government is committed to the people and will build and reconstruct Ghazni. The reconstruction process is not limited to schools and roads; we must also include religious madrassas. This madrassa will be a challenge to terrorism. We have both Shia and Sunni people in Ghazni who must stand united against those who use our religion to wage terrorism.

    Wahabbis come here and try to tell us what is true Islam, but the people of Afghanistan know true Islam. The people of Afghanistan converted Bangladesh, Pakistan and parts of India to Islam. The Pakistani terrorists burn our madrassas and schools while the ISI says that they will allocate money to build religious centers. We have not forgotten our responsibilities towards religious education; thats why we are building this madrassa which will cost $1.2M USD. (22 January 2007)

    Slipping away in the east

    Security has deteriorated markedly in eastern Afghanistan over the last three years, a trend that's clearly visible in the Wikileaks reports. Provinces like Logar, Khost and Paktia are the subject of increasingly-dire reports starting in roughly mid-2006. By mid-2007, local officials are warning of "decreasing" security, as in this dispatch from Paktia in August 2007:

    The overall security of Paktia appears to be decreasing. The Chief of Police reported many instances of removing corruption, and specifically detained the Chamkani ANAP (Afghan National Auxiliary Police) chief of police for corruption. The ANP have increased patrols within Gardez and have also ceased leaving ANP and civilian vehicles in static positions throughout the city, thus bombings of ANP have gone down. The Chief of Police seems excited for the upcoming operation and is ready to incorporate his police with CF and the ETTs to better their capabilities and secure the KG Pass through checkpoints. The ANA have also increased patrols and added check points within the KG Pass, but the Zormat district remains a security threat. Very few remarks were made toward the districts north of Gardez, but Operation Khyber appears to be dominating the subject matter of all meetings during the day. The governor apparently has issues with the NDS, and how the NDS chief does not usually come to work. (14 August 2007)

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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