July 26th, 2010
08:14 PM ET

WikiLeaks shines spotlight on mysterious Task Force 373

U.S. military documents released by WikiLeaks show that a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan assigned to hunt down terrorists also was responsible for the deaths of civilians, Afghan police officers and, in one particularly bloody raid, seven children while they attended school.

The unit is called Task Force 373. It’s assigned to kill so-called “high value” targets or detain them without trial, often in night operations. The 373 follows a hit list of sorts, according to The New York Times and The Guardian newspaper in England. (WikiLeaks gave The New York Times, The Guardian and German magazine Der Spiegel early access to the documents before posting them.)

The list is referred to as Jpel, which supposedly stands for “joint prioritized effects list.”  Der Spiegel reported in January that the Task Force was active in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

“U.S. special forces with Task Force 373 are sent out on operations on a nightly basis,” it wrote. “In addition to taking suspected Taliban extremists prisoner, they have many times been responsible for eliminating wanted Taliban leaders.”

The documents published by WikiLeaks cover controversial operations by Task Force 373.  Among the incidents:

- Seeking Taliban commander  Qarl Ur-Rahman in a valley near Jalalabad, Task Force 373 became engaged in a firefight in June 2007 at night. According to a document linked on the New York Times and Guardian sites, “The original mission was aborted…” and the task force later filed a report which said “7 X ANP NIA, 4 X WIA” resulted. That means seven Afghan police officers had been killed. Read the document

- Later that month, the Task Force launched am operation to kill or capture  senior al Qaeda figure  Abu Laith al-Libi in Paktika province, close to the border with Afghanistan. They failed to find Libi, who was killed several months later. During the operation, a missile attack was launched on a mosque compound where several suspects were thought to be, but the action resulted in the deaths of 7 children. The follow-up report said “An elder who was at the Mosque stated that the children were held against their will and were intentionally kept inside.” Read the document, reproduced by the New York Times

U.S. Special Operations missions in Afghanistan have been criticized by human rights groups.

“You have people going in with a kill list and the public accountability simply doesn’t exist,” said Sarah Knuckey, director of the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law. She went to Afghanistan in 2008 to interview dozens of civilians who had complained of indiscriminate military attacks.

“We didn’t hear specifically the name 373, but it’s clear, judging by what’s been on WikiLeaks – if [WikiLeaks’] information is correct – that what civilians told us is true,” she told CNN.

soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. carlos

    la FE 373 solo falta que se den una vuelta por america y se encarguen de asustar a chavez, correa, morales, cristina etc....lo haran? o ya estan aqui?

    May 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kashman

    Hello, as a legal resident of the USA I want to say to to all the military personal fighting on both fronts that you are admired greatly. No one can fathom the job you have before you, at least in WWII your enemy wore a uniform and you knew who you were shooting at, not so today. Whether right or wrong, (right in this case), at least the U.S has the guts to stand up for what it believes in. I am glad knowing that there is a task force 373 doing these nasty deeds no one else wants to do and the thing is WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. I DON'T CARE HOW THEY GET THE JOB DONE AS LONG AS IT GETS DONE. Perhaps the people that made this list public and those at Wiki should be put on ' A LIST '. Americans and coalition allies are now in danger because of these people.

    August 16, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Scotto

      Well said Kashman. Too many bleeding hearts in this country now wanting to give terrorists more rights than us Americans.

      August 16, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. John M R Blanch

    All of these terrorists need to be wiped from the face of the earth

    August 14, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. twiz1

    I think every country on the planet has a "Task Force 373" called obviously a different name...heck even the remaining the Taliban in Afganistan probably has a less effective version. I wish Obama would call all of our men and women of the armed forces back to the US. We could redirect the spending of those billions of dollars on alternative energy research...then give that technology away for free so that the middle east would be plunged into financial disarray when their oil was suddenly worthless. Instead we spend billions on a war...which in and of itself uses more oil...which essentially funds those crazies over there. Which then requires a Task Force 33 to go kill people that otherwise wouldn't have two nickels to rub together much less an AK47 and housefull of explosives. Shooting them is too good for them...lets make their only resource, oil, worthless and let 'em starve to death.

    August 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ed

    Civilians die in war. This is news? The US and Israel are the only country's in the history of warfare that must avoid and apologize for civilian casualties. Yet, few report that their adversaries tend to dress like civilians and use civilians as human shields. Sometimes I wonder if people like Ashley Fantz consider the obvious fact that their reporting plays into the propaganda of our enemies and the people who would enslave her if given the chance. . Ashley hasn't yet figured out that her right to hold a pen and spew her "reporting" was paid for in American blood. Yet, she stands on her CNN podium and "reports" that the US military has killed civilians b/c it appalls her. Truly the product of a spoiled generation.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Subbu Jois

    When the extremists take "extra-judicial" means to eliminate their opponents, what other means do governments have? Why dont Human Rights people raise their voices against these extremists? The jihadists have a public agenda to terrorize and kill. Why dont the HRCs face them and their bullets rather than cozing up in their living rooms watching TV and and raising hell when the former are paid back in their own coin!?

    August 10, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joe R.

    All in favor of having this task force go after wikileaks say "aye." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEE

    July 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Shaley

    Are we forgetting that we are fighting a war! War is ugly and we place all kinds of restraints on our men who are on the frontline. Our enemy knows this and exploits it. No one reports on the atrocities that our enemy commits on our troops and the women,children and elderly on a daily basis. We, as a fighting force follow the Geneva Convention and they don't, period! I am glad we have special ops doing the work that most can't and won't. I just wish our government, lawyers and media would let these guy's do what they need to do to win with out fear of being tried as criminal or lambasted in the media. Keep up the good work special ops.

    July 30, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Acidophilus

    What's the problem with targeting a specific list of terrorists? After all, if you were on a battlefield , let's say 150 years ago, wouldn't you instruct your soldiers to target the enemy's officers first? The list of targets is nothing more than the officer cadre of the terrorists. I agree that today the list is necessary, as the terrorists don't wear uniforms and one has to be sure that an individual is actually a terrorist.

    July 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dr Spock

    Maybe if you stopped drinking lead paint milkshakes long enough to make an intelligent post, somebody would take you seriously. You have to be the most ridiculous poster on this thread!

    July 29, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Frugal

    Blah Blah Blah!!!!! Is every one sick here? I think all gang members should be killed on the spot like they are terrorist because that is what they are. All terrorists should be killed on the spot. All Illegal Immigrants should be deported or put in prison for their crimes and then deported. And all the political offices should be burned down and rebuilt to create jobs. I also think the terms of office for all offices federal and state and local should be one term of 6 years. I think that we should bring all military home and pay tax credits to people who have children and catch up with China's population so we can have a huge military and then attack whoever we want withour being spread so thin. this will only take 18 years to double our population in the military.

    July 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nabi18

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/if-it-is-extreme-it-is-not-islam/

    July 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nabi18

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/if-it-is-extreme-it-is-not-islam/

    July 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jamez1

    USA needs a lot more NIGHT STALKERS. In designated fire zones, KILL. WE have too many WHIMPY leaders who are afraid of political criticism. AFGHANS and PAKI's only understand power and corruption. We are not there to make friends. We can buy that. AFGAN is lost, unless the USA gets MEAN, REAL MEAN.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sto

    thank god for TF373. Who cares if they deliberately hunt and kil terrorists?? that's awesome, we should applaud them. Sorry about the civies getting cut down by accident, but war is hell.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  16. AC

    At least we know that someone is defending us. Thanks to task force 373 and I hope we got 372 more doing the same thing.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  17. Leaf

    The ends justify the means.
    All gloves need to be removed when you fight for survival.

    July 28, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  18. Daniel

    Isn't it funny how civilians always try to talk about how to properly handle a war? What a joke, like these guys would know how it is over there.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  19. Willis

    It's funny how everyone says Afghanistan/Iraq is justified considering the attackers of 9/11 were from Saudi. We go from weapons of mass destruction, to protecting the oil fields, to liberating the Iraqis, to bringing Democracy to Iraq. Americans are so gullible and panic and give up everything that the country stands for once a little tragedy happens. As Americans, when its not our people, it is OK to justify civillian killings. Hey its just war right. War against who, not sure but I am sure we will find somebody to kill. Its what we do best.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  20. poopster

    Ive gotta poop

    July 28, 2010 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
  21. Burn Em All


    July 28, 2010 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  22. SLIP

    Nothing mysterious about these guys. They are paid to do the things no else wants and/or probably cannot do. They do it quietly with no need for a pat on a back... GODSPEED to the warriors.... and BTW Hope your powder is wet you false religion extremists!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  23. wolff bachner

    the vast majority of the pots in this thread are just simply disgraceful. the world is a mess and we are all going to suffer as result. I will oppose any religion or government that tries to tell me how to live and what to believe. But this is one jew who wont be going to the death camps. when they remove my corpse they will also be removing a nice pile of their own as well. And as far as Islam, i am not going to accept allah and im not going to accept living as a dhimmi. I will fight to the death to be free.

    July 27, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Philip

    OK, seriously, our military is out there risking their lives on a daily basis, fighting to protect us against people who simply want to destroy our great country. Then some project director who has probably never touched a gun in her life comes along and discredits them, especially such an elite group such as the Green Berets and Task Force 373?! She needs to wake up and smell the roses....I think it's very safe to say that our most highly trained operators didn't purposely kill civilians for no reason whatsoever so people like her should just keep their big mouths shut.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Christian

    This is extremely one-sided reporting. They only mentioned the unsuccessful raids. How about the hundreds of terrorists they likely killed or apprehended?

    July 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Ed

    Each war has there secret units for specialized warfare. In my war it was the phoenix project.where civilians by day and fighters by night were tracked down and executed amongst other things.(ala: 373)Neutralizing the civilian support of local fighters was the primary target of that op. Legal wars or illegal wars it makes no difference. Human beings wasted is always the outcome. Speaking of wasted; Looks (sounds) like the Christians failed horribly in finishing the Crusades!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  27. American

    Listen, everyone that is posting and bashing the military. You do understand that the US military is here to keep Americans safe. That very small percentage of Americans that stood up to defend this nation have sacrificed more than you will ever know. Do you know what it is like to have never seen your child born or to come home to a child that is now talking and walk, though when that serviceman/servicewoman left the child was only crawling and cooing? No, I think you do not. Do you know how stressful it is for someone that is deployed to talked to their loved ones maybe only one a week? Probably not, because you have the freedom to call them whenever you want. Whether you believe that what the military is doing worldwide is right or not, you should show the members of the military some respect, because they are doing a job that you are obviously not, and that you obviously could not. Also to the human rights activists, no member of the military goes out to harm civilians. That is the stuff of movies. It is actually the opposite. Many members of the military go out of their way to ensure that civilians do not get harmed while fighting is going on, and most of the time put themselves at risk while doing so. There will be many ways to interpret this "leak", some good, some bad, but don't forget that whatever happened, happened while servicemen/servicewomen were taking time out of their lives to keep Americans safe at home. And while yes you can argue that we are not doing anything at all over there, and we should bring our troops home, think about this, have you ever been over there? Have you seen first had the good that is happening, or just the bad that is reported in the news online or on television? The answer is probably no. Take the time out of your busy day, just once, and ask a soldier what is going on, and how they are. They will give you an honest answer.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  28. chaharmahal

    The real story is about Iran involment and support of al Qaida ......

    July 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Kasner

    Why don't people start focusing on pulling those men and women out of Afghanistan? The war hasn't seen to many productive accomplishments in a while. And if killing children and police officers is the best thats being done, we might as well stop this war. Bin Laden is probably gone, or even dead, and the people there need to start realizing that the these terrorist groups used those terror attacks to lure Americans into those Hell-Holes. We are not saving lives, but losing them. And after 9/11 these groups will have to be alot more crafty to do just as much damage. We are doing more damage to them then they have done to us. The work has been done. Let's end it.

    July 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  30. chuckd88

    Maybe its time for the tanks and b-52's!

    July 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  31. chuckd88

    What would human rights groups prefer, an all-out ground invasion crushing everything in our path, and killing thousands of innocents? Thats what they should get if they dont allow us to go after our enemies this way. Dont blame us because the terrorist cowards wont let their women and children flee to safety!

    July 27, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
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