Wikileaks leaked over 90,000 records to the New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel on the War in Afghanistan with detail rarely seen in news reports. A cursory look at the doucments reveals that the sentiments are things reported or thought to be true before -- Pakistani ISI services with extensive contacts in the Afghan Taliban, corruption in the Afghan government, rising civilian casualties because of drone attacks, the brutality of the Taliban, the corruption of the Afghan police, and so forth.
Still, these are primary sources. It isn't journalists -- or, gasp, bloggers -- saying that the War in Afghanistan is a mess, these are military and intelligence reports not intended for public viewing. That's what is significant about these leaks.
Whomever leaked these documents is a true patriot--the public deserves to know this information. As usual, the administration says these leaks harm national security. However, they were classified at the lowest level of "secret." The real story is that they merely embarrass. The Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel took care to redact or not publish memos that would identify sources, troop movements, kidnap victims, ongoing surveillance operations, etc.--things that genuinely would harm national security. And many of the incidents that took place are from a few years ago.
So what do the memos say?
The documents describe at least two incidents wherein ISI members are helping carry out suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan. Again, it's pretty well known that members of Pakistan's intelligence services have contacts with the Afghan Taliban. But this is more proof of it.
One document is proof of a meeting in South Waziristan between Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI, and Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban discussing how to avenger the death of Osama al-Kini, a leading al Qaeda member. Gul, who denied the charges, has called 9/11 "an inside job" and has said "the Americans have nothing against me" about his ties with al-Qaeda. He has said he supports the Taliban as "Afghan resistance" and he has "given them my voice," but it appears he's given more than that.
Gul's strategic observations aren't in a vacuum. It's a fairly common observation among the Pakistani elite that the Afghan Taliban represent Pakistan's interests better than the supposedly India/American-friendly Karzai government. As the U.S. has poured over $13 billion in aid to Pakistan since 9/11, high members of its government work against our interests.
The Afghan Police
One document shows the Afghan police take bribes at phony checkpoints. Again, well-known. Another document shows a firefight between the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army.
Though little context is given, it's extremely dysfunctional that the army and police of the same country would fire at each other.
By far, the most interesting document is from provincial council officials visiting a American military civil affairs team. It shows the ineffectiveness of governance in the country.
With the Afghan government, the fish rots from the head. Democracy has also been thoroughly discredited, not only because of corruption, but because of the August elections that the West sanctioned. If Karzai could engineer massive voter fraud and the West sanctioned it is as a legitimate election, then really what is democracy. (The whole situation is reminiscent of 1990s Russia, when the West helped introduce democracy to the country, though it ended up being discredited for bringing in a repellent oligarchy and ostentatious corruption.)
Though it seems too often that Afghanistan is impervious to public debate, hopefully a massive leak of secret documents will change this dynamic as the publication of the Pentagon Papers. If political elites cannot believe journalists -- let alone a blogger in his pajamas -- about how badly the war in Afghanistan is going, maybe they should look at these military reports.