Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Afghanistan: the Inside Story

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

?

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail