The war unravels

Published on 26 July 2010 at 11:46

“Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation”, leads the Guardian. In what is described as one of the biggest leaks in US military history, some 90,000 files about the war in Afghanistan have been made available, via Wikileaks, to the London daily, along with the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel. The files, the Guardian reveals, “provide a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan”.

Included are details of how Taliban attacks have soared in the last six years, in spite of a surge in coalition efforts to knock out the Taliban leaderships with a secret "black" unit of special forces for "kill or capture" without trial. Also revealed is that the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles, and how the coalition is increasingly resorting to the use of Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada. There is also damning evidence that neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

Far removed from the sanitised public image of a coalition seeking to win Afghan “hearts and minds” is evidence of at least 195 covered up civilian deaths. “Blue on white” incidents, in military parlance, “include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.”

Over in Germany, Der Spiegel focuses on the Bundeswehr’s war. “At the start of the deployment,” it notes, “some Bundeswehr soldiers jokingly called the small city of Kunduz "Bad Kunduz," the word "Bad" being the German word officially bestowed on spa towns. But peaceful days in Kunduz, where a large number of German troops are stationed, have long been a thing of the past.” On May 19, 2007, three German soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber as they were buying refrigerators at a local market. It also notes that “Eight Afghan civilians also died in the first deadly attack deliberately targeted at Germans in the region."

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“However you cut it,” writes the Guardian leader, “this is not an Afghanistan that either the US or Britain is about to hand over gift-wrapped with pink ribbons to a sovereign national government in Kabul. Quite the contrary. After nine years of warfare, the chaos threatens to overwhelm. A war fought ostensibly for the hearts and minds of Afghans cannot be won like this.”

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