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 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 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 (18 Responses)
  1. Lola

    Just to mention... in new wonderful year : ]

    December 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. steve

    Anyone associated with this high treason should be shot dead. People should class action sue wikileaks and shoot the founder of wikileaks. Sue the newspapers as they too are guilty! Mccrystal is ultimately responsible for allowing this info to every solide as part of his program.

    August 1, 2010 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Pete Larson

    I posted some preliminary statistical analysis of the Wikileaks Afghan Conflict data on my personal blog. Please take a look at it for more figures and maps from the data that you might not find elsewhere.


    July 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim from Colorado

    This war is sounding like the Viet Nam war all over again. Soldiers lives and billions of dollars (close to a trillion now) are being spent on a type of warfare the U.S. cannot win by the methods being used. If the U.S. troops came into my country and started killing terrorist but having many uninvolved civilians including children killed also, I would start questioning whose side I was on and who I was supporting.

    This appears to be a religious and tribal war, not a John Wayne type war good for movies. It took the Pentagon papers for this country to begin to understand that U.S. was losing the war in Viet Nam even while the government was saying we were winning. Our government is too ego based to admit we may have made serious mistakes in estimating how to win the Afgan war. It is time our government wakes up to the fact we can take the truth and we are demanding the truth from our representatives, not some warmed over publicity.

    July 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The other Steve

    Not if the US/NATO continue to fight the Taliban on the Taliban's terms. When our political/military leaders realize that this strategy is not working, and actually use a proactive strategy that allows our troops to legitimately call for air support (just an example), then maybe we can win this war. In it's current form... doubtful.

    July 29, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. jp

    The owner of this site needs to "disappear". It is morally criminal to divulge names of those that are sympathetic to our efforts and that provide us with vital information. Hopefully our Delta Forces or Seal Teams make this guy disappear in the middle of the night. Better yet send him to Gitmo

    July 29, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Come on,jp.Cut the right-wing crap,will you?

      July 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Smith in Oregon

    Tonight CNN's AC360 Anderson Cooper went over the story of a US defense contractor (David H. Brooks DHB) wanted for an alleged stock fraud scheme to the tune of 190 Million dollars. It seems David Brooks, CEO of the largest body armor company supplying troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was desperate to obtain memory eraser pills to deploy on a former chief financial officer of his company DHB. Anderson Cooper sarcastially laughed about that. New York times and other western media were quick to post, 'there is no memory-erasing pill'.

    For the scores of men and women in the US Military who have worked in very sensitive programs and emerged years later with total memory erasal of 5 to 10 years of their direct involvement in that program, it is no laughing matter. These career officiers were all top secret or higher cleared, served with honor and interigty, discharged honorably, and yet it definately appears the US Military didn't even trust their most trusted soldiers to maintain their silence and subjected them to drugs which erased their memorys across a large block of time.

    During WW2 German chemists discovered and the SS used during interrogation a well known drug which induced a 3-4 day memory loss. The person emerged totally unable to recall anything that transpired over that 3-4 day period. That was in the 1940's. Apparently American scientists working for the immense US Military complex have greatly expanded upon chemical wipes over long and short term memorys. And this seems unique to America. The US Military Complex it seems does not even trust it's most trusted men and women in service and after service. While a complete 5 to 10 year memory erasal is a remarkable achievement, it is also depraved, immoral and tells the world the US Military complex doesn't even trust it's most trusted and honorable employees.

    In the late 1980's I personally met one such individual that had worked for space command deep within the Cheynne Mountain complex for over 5 years. It seemed from many discussions he had been given something during the initial orientation meeting prior to his work at his duty station. After leaving Cheynne Mountain and retiring, well over 5 years of memorys had been totally erased immediately following the orientation meeting. His memorys after his tour in Cheynne Mountain were fully intact but all of his skills and memorys obtained during that lengthy tour were totally erased.

    And to the initial story which CNN's AC360 Anderson Cooper was laughing at. What do you think led David Brooks to even consider seeking a memory erasal drug? Undoubtedly as a leading provider for US military body armor, he had been repeatedly visited by Military brass and at least one had mentioned memory erasal had been imployed by the US Military in select programs and projects on retiring staff members. To those that the US Military has done that to, it is no laughing manner.

    July 29, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. No american in support

    All military are killers, in the military you are fair game to be killed just as you have signed up to be a killer, no military, no wars!

    July 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMC

      Look up the definition of "anarchy" before you go around saying that there will not be any war without any military. That's ignorant and naive if you honestly think everyone on the planet would all of a sudden "get along" if there were no military members in the world. 'If you want peace, prepare for war.'

      July 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Terry

    Folks, The leaked information says clearly that there is a report that Bin Ladin died in 2007, why was that avoided?

    July 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      Easy,Terry.The right-wing thugs in Washington need this "bogeyman" to scare the American public into supporting this obnoxious war and that's that.

      July 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Superman

    Until we have real campaign finance reform and kck the lobbyist out of Washington our politicians (Obama, Bush and everyone else) wont be acting in our best interests, they’ll be doing what’s best corporations, special interest groups and foreign governments who give them money.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever

      Very well put,Superman.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John


    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 |

    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 |