A lot of sensitive information about the war in Afghanistan has been leaked thru Wikileaks, and the Guardian has set up a site to examine it. The New York Times and Der Spiegel were also recipients of the classified information and are doing their own articles. There is plenty of disturbing stuff. One thing that is disturbing is the Taliban’s incredible indifference to protecting innocent civilian life.
The logs suggest that Taliban insurgents have killed or injured at least 7,000 Afghan civilians in IED attacks between 2004 and 2009. The number has increased tenfold over that time. Civilian casualties rose even after Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader, ordered insurgents to avoid killing bystanders.
In May last year, he said suicide bombers should only attack “high and important targets”. “A brave son of Islam should not be used for lower and useless targets. The utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties.” He called on his fighters to win over the Afghan people.
Yet in August, 429 civilians were killed or wounded by IEDs, the highest recorded in the logs. Investigators working for the UN said in January that the Taliban were responsible for more civilian deaths than the US-led military coalition.
When you compare the Taliban’s tactics to the causes of civilian deaths caused by the Coalition, you realize that fear of IED attacks is the primary driver of those deaths, too. Even an apparent war crime by Polish troops was done in retaliation for an IED attack.
There are disturbing reports on Task Force 373, which appears to be an assassination outfit. They have killed a lot of civilians as they’ve gone about crossing names off their target list, which now exceeds 2,058 individuals.
The totality of the leaked information confirms that we’re fighting a very dirty war and that we’re not making a whole lot of progress. The other side is indeed more ruthless and indifferent to human life, but that doesn’t seem to make them any easier to beat. The leaks also confirm that our military consistently lies and covers up bad news (often as part of official policy). The information contained in the leaks cuts off in late 2009, so the vast majority of it covers events that occurred during the Bush administration or durng the review period of the Obama administration. Some things may have changed for the better, but the outlook still looks bleak. We’re doing a lot of awful things, the other side is far worse, and there’s no end in sight.