BBC: US says Wikileaks could ‘threaten national security’

The leaks raise “serious” questions about US policy in the region, a senior US senator has said The United States has condemned as “irresponsible” the leak of 90,000 military records, saying publication could threaten national security. The documents released by the Wikileaks website include details of killings of Afghan civilians unreported until now. Three news organisations had advance access to the records, which also show Nato concerns that Pakistan and Iran are helping the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied claims its intelligence agency backed the Taliban

 The huge cache of classified papers – posted by Wikileaks as the Afghan War Diary – is one of the biggest leaks in US history. It was given to the New York Times, the Guardian and the German news magazine, Der Spiegel. In a statement, US National Security Adviser Gen James Jones said such classified information “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk”. He said the documents covered the period from 2004 to 2009, before President Obama “announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan”.

Pakistan denied claims its intelligence agency, the ISI, backed the Taliban in the war in Afghanistan. One of the leaked documents refers to an alleged meeting between insurgents and the former Pakistani intelligence chief, Lt Gen Hamid Gul. He dismissed the Wikileaks material as “pure fiction which is being sold as intelligence”. “It’s not intelligence,” Lt Gen Gul told the BBC. “It may have a financial angle to it but more than that it is not hardcore (intelligence). I’m an old veteran. I know. This is not intelligence.” 

 The documents are a treasure trove for historians, showing the fragmentary, elusive quality of raw intelligence. The picture they paint is of American naivety at the beginning, a distracting obsession with Osama bin Laden, aid programmes that did not work, failure to understand the nature of the Taliban, and the continuing poor quality of Afghan police and soldiers.

 It is easy to see why the leak of all of this information would infuriate a White House desperate to make 2010 the year they change the way they do business in Afghanistan. The extent of American penetration and control of Afghan intelligence revealed in the documents will also raise questions about Afghan independence. Reports show that targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, stepped up under the Obama administration, have often killed civilians.

The reports also suggest: The Taliban has had access to portable heat-seeking missiles to shoot at aircraft

A secret US unit of army and navy special forces has been engaged on missions to “capture or kill” top insurgents

 Many civilian casualties – caused by Taliban roadside bombs and Nato missions that went wrong – have gone unreported ‘Civilian deaths’ But the head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate said the leak came at a “critical stage” for US policy in the region.



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