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WikiLeaks and the Long War

Samara Greenberg

The leaking of over 90,000 U.S. military records Sunday to WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower website that uploads private memos and classified documents, has sparked an uproar across the United States. Called the Afghan War Diary, these classified documents, which are largely reports from junior officers in the field, shed light on elements of the war previously hidden from the public.

According to the documents, for example, the Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft – the same type of weapon that helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat Soviet forces in the 1980s. In addition, the documents disclose that the Central Intelligence Agency has expanded operations inside Afghanistan under the Obama administration, and that secret commando units work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. While their missions claim notable successes, some have resulted in civilian deaths.

Afghan mujahedeen prepare to fire a heat seeking missile

Perhaps most worrisome, however, is the claim that Pakistan, the recipient of over one billion U.S. dollars yearly, allows representatives of its spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to meet directly with the Afghan Taliban to plan attacks against American soldiers. Some of the reports even describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside al-Qaeda.

While those who leaked the documents must be held accountable for their actions, the reports are certainly troubling as they illustrate problems the U.S. continues to face in the war effort as well as highlight the new security challenges facing the government in the digital age. As Americans lose steam to fight the Long War, one can only hope that the reports will pressure the Obama administration to review and revise its war strategy in order to successfully defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Central Asia.