WikiLeaks documents: What we've learned so far
July 28th, 2010
10:47 AM ET

WikiLeaks documents: What we've learned so far

Thousands of leaked classified documents published by WikiLeaks.org have given a rare glimpse into some operations on the ground in the Afghanistan war.

The firsthand accounts are the military's raw data on the war, including numbers killed, casualties, threat reports and the like, according to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.org. CNN has been unable to confirm the documents are authentic. Our reporters are digging into the tens of thousands of documents to see what we can learn about the war, troop operations, insurgent attacks and tactical issues.

Here's what we've learned about so far:

Toll of enemy ambushes
Some of the leaked messages reveal a strategic pattern of hit-and-run ambushes by enemy forces operating in Afghanistan - attacks that the U.S.-led military coalition began to treat as routine occurrences.

The material details more than 530 separate incidents of ambush-style assaults. While likely only a fraction of the total number of such attacks, taken together they show that the U.S. and its coalition partners, along with a variety of Afghan military and security branches, were mostly helpless to prevent or anticipate them.

Response when a soldier goes missing
One of the military reports takes a look at how the U.S. military responded to a specific incident when an Army officer went missing from his base in Afghanistan. When U.S. Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was first discovered missing from his southeastern Afghanistan base last summer, the commander of his unit quickly ordered "all operations will cease until missing soldier is found."

"All assets will be focused on the DUSTWUN [duty status - whereabouts unknown] situation and sustainment operations," according to one of the 90,000 secret military reports released.

Occasional chat about bin Laden
The reports provide fleeting glimpses into the possible whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the years since his escape from American forces at Tora Bora in the Afghan mountains. There are a few interesting mentions of bin Laden, but many of the reports in which his name surfaces focus on what officials believed or thought about whether he was trying to remain hidden or avoid capture and occasional references to events or meetings he is reported to have attended.

Some documents quoted intelligence sources as saying bin Laden wanted al Qaeda operatives disguised as journalists to attack Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a 2004 news conference. In 2005, his financial adviser and an Afghan insurgent leader reportedly were dispatched to obtain rockets from North Korea to use against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Truckers shaken down from both sides
A few of the leaked documents show that sometimes supplies are just as much a focus in this war as the people on either side simply fighting each other. Truckers moving vital supplies along the roads of war-torn Afghanistan have faced shakedowns by both the Taliban and Afghan authorities, with Taliban fighters charging up to $500 for safe passage, the leaked reports show.

A trucking company working in Afghanistan told American forces "that they were approached by Taliban personnel to talk about payment for the safe passage of convoys through their area," one report from 2007 says.

Infighting and drug use among Afghan forces
Some documents reveal conflict among Afghan security forces, including attacks on one another, as well as heavy drug use among troops.

The material details more than 60 "Green on Green" incidents in which Afghan military personnel were more concerned with battling each other, rather than insurgents. Illegal drugs appear in several other instances to have fueled much of the internal Afghan disputes, including instances where soldiers were caught being high on drugs, and in one report, the drug use led to a gunbattle breaking out on base.

Media's impact on investigations
While many of the reports are details from sources on the ground about certain daily operations, one leaked document sheds light on the confusion of what turned into a controversial attack in Kunduz - and how the media played a role in the military's investigation afterward.

One leaked document shows how NATO troops were mistaken in a deadly air attack on two stolen fuel tankers last year. After the tankers were blown up and a unit was sent to the scene, a military report of the incident found no civilian casualties.

But a later update said: "At 0900 hrs International Media reported that US airstrike had killed 60 civilians in Kunduz. The media are reporting that Taliban did steal the trucks and had invited civilians in the area to take fuel."

Drone crashes targeted for aircraft parts
When unmanned aircraft crash in Afghanistan, scavenger hunters frequently aren't far behind, U.S. military incident reports suggest.

On several occasions, military units sent to recover Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles arrived to find the aircraft stripped of valuable parts - including key electronic components.

Successes and failures on the battlefront
The training of and handing over of security responsibilities to the Afghan police and military forces have been central components of U.S. strategy during the last two administrations. Among the tens of thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks are a series of reports on the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

The reports chronicle successes and failures of both agencies from 2004-2009. Both agencies have had failures, but a preliminary review of the documents suggests that the police has more problems than the army.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. John

    Bubba,

    You are the epitome of the kind of results we can expect from our current educational system. This article is stating the "day to day" operational notes and views from the ground sources. In other words, the reports are written by soldiers, other civilians and government officials. Barack Obama has absolutely no control over "day to day" operations. Given the opportunity, I would expect you to run your mouth as wrecklessly on just about any other important topic, thank god the damage you can do is nothing compared to the BP oil well.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BUBBA--ALABAMA STYLE!!!

    You can always count on Pres.Obama to do the wrong thing as usual.

    July 28, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      What do you expect,Bubba?Barack Obama is in the pockets of the MIC(military-industrial-complex).So he plans to do exactly they tell him to, just like the majority in Congress.

      July 28, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
      • Grimlock

        You must think you're so clever, touting that acronym of yours.

        July 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |