FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Afghanistan: the Inside Story

by STEVE BREYMAN

The big news Monday morning (July 26) was about Wikileak’s latest feat: the release of nearly 92,000 secret incident and intelligence reports from US military files from Afghanistan for 2004-2009. The New York Times, the British Guardian, and the German weekly Der Spiegel received the files from Wikileaks. The news media is already referring to the episode as “the biggest leak in US military history.” I’m a fan and early supporter of Wikileaks. (Disclosure: I once recommended a Swahili translator to Julian Assange—founder and public face of Wikileaks–for a trove of Kenyan government documents). A full-time global nonprofit devoted to exposing official misconduct, malfeasance, and mendacity? Best thing to happen to journalism since the advent of the progressive news aggregator. In this case, however, the leaks tell the attentive monitor of the war very little that she didn’t already know. Ironically, this is also the view of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and of Afghan president Hamid Karzai (more about the White House reaction below). Further digging may turn up some surprises, but initial analysis points to confirmation of existing knowledge.

The papers and the magazine have had the files for several weeks. The deal with Assange was that the outlets had to wait to publish stories on the files until Wikileaks was able to post them all on its website. The Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel each published multiple stories based on the documents on Monday. The leaked reports cover a wide swath of familiar events and operations from Operation Enduring Freedom: drone strikes, civilian deaths and the corresponding weak investigations or cover-ups, special forces rampages, official Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban, and more. We ‘learn’ that the alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban militants targeted for execution by drone or commando raid do not receive due process. We ‘learn’ that the number of drone strikes is up. We ‘learn’ that Taliban IEDs kill loads of civilians. We ‘learn’ that American servicemen were killed at remote and stupidly placed outposts that ought never to have existed. We ‘learn’ that Afghan National Army (ANA) units mistakenly opened fire on other ANA units. We ‘learn’ that Afghan policemen extort cash from truck drivers at checkpoints. We ‘learn’ that the US military command still conducts inadequate investigations of reports of civilian deaths. We ‘learn’ that the German government did not level with its public regarding threats faced by German troops in Kunduz.

Sure, there’s some news here: the Taliban now have surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The extent of alleged Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and Army support for and direction of the Afghan Taliban is broader and deeper than many of us suspected. But, again, nearly all the documents reported on thus far merely confirm what any critical-thinking observer of the war already knew.

The White House ignored Der Spiegel’s request for comment prior to the deadline for its print edition. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Advisor for Communications, finally responded to a few written questions on Saturday evening (July 24), but refused an interview. Rhodes made three main points: (1) the President and his team have repeatedly complained about the save havens for the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan; (2) most of these documents are from the Bush era (four years of Bush, nine months of Obama; Rhodes’ boss, General Jim Jones, later made the same point about the age of the files); and (3) the leaks “put the lives of US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security.” About his last point: no they don’t. Wikileaks, both papers, and the magazine took pains to redact names of sources, prisoners, and even buildings. We do not learn the radio frequencies used by insurgents, nor their telephone numbers. Only the names of public figures remain. Jones’ and Gibbs’ trivializing the files as outdated omits the fact that Obama ordered two surges during the period covered by the documents (one in February 2009, and the other in December 2009). And if they’re outdated, then how do they pose a threat to national security?  The White House was adamant that the “irresponsible leaks” will not “impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.” Now there’s a threat to national security for you.

Even if we don’t learn that much new from the files, their release is still an important public service due to the vast ignorance of elected officials and the general public about the conduct of the war. May the leak help slay ignorance, and speed up the day when all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

STEVE BREYMAN teaches “War in Afghanistan” at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail