Monday, July 26, 2010

The Afghan warlogs

Wikileaks has struck again, with a leak of the US's Afghan war diary, a collection of 91,000 reports covering on the US war in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2010:

The reports cover most units from the US Army with the exception of most US Special Forces' activities. The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations.

We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.

There's been a simultaneous release in the New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, with each media outlet focusing on different reports within the massive dataset. But the overall picture is bad, with news of unreported civilian deaths, a US death-squad (which frequently kills the wrong people), drones that fall out of the sky, a failure to deal with IEDs, and reports that Pakistan is helping the Taliban. Its a deeply embarrassing leak for the US; no wonder they regard Wikileaks as a threat. But this is stuff we have a right to know - people are being killed, and our governments are doing it in our name. We have a right to scrutinise their conduct and hold them to account (particularly if, as this leak shows, they are lying to us).

As for New Zealand, while the logs do not generally cover non-US forces, there are a few mentions of us. Some routine reports of political meetings and discovered IEDs and weapons caches, a report on the IED attack on an NZ convoy, a kiwi soldier medevaced for Gastro Enteritis, another after being backed over by a patrol vehicle at the firing range, Wayne Mapp's Hercules getting a missile warning on approach to Kabul (confirmed in a Sunday News story here). There's no mention of the SAS, or of any misbehaviour of combat by NZ forces. Within the limits of the dataset, its actually reassuring about the NZ deployment - they seem to be doing exactly what they say they are, and not getting into trouble (at least according to the Americans). And that is good to know.