Monday: Thousands of Documents Leaked on Afghan War; BP Eyes Leadership Shift

BY Maureen Hoch  July 26, 2010 at 9:50 AM EDT

AFP/Getty images

More than 90,000 classified U.S. documents detailing the war in Afghanistan have been published online by the whistle-blower group WikiLeaks, offering a newly detailed window of insight into the U.S. military’s struggle to confront the Taliban and the role of Pakistan in the conflict.

The release of the records, which is being called one of the largest in U.S. military history, also reveals new information on Afghan civilian casualties, the types of weaponry sought by insurgents and the targeting of some militants without trial.

Three news organizations — the New York Times, London newspaper the Guardian and German magazine Der Spiegel — were given early access to the documents and published in-depth pieces on their contents Monday. The Times explains the process here.

The Times assessment of the records raises questions on Pakistan’s past role and offers a bleaker view of the war than officials have portrayed:

“The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.”

The Guardian highlights these findings from the records:

• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

• How the U.S. covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

Using the records, the Guardian assembled a map of IED attacks on civilians, troops and coalition forces.

White House national security chief Jim Jones said in a statement that the leak of the records will “put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk” and also pointed out that the documents track a time period from January 2004 to December 2009 — mostly during the Bush administration.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqqani said the documents “do not reflect the current on-ground realities,” according to the AP.

WikiLeaks said that the release “did not generally include top-secret organizations,” and that it had “delayed the release of some 15,000 reports,” but said it could release some documents later.

The Washington Post looks at WikiLeak’s handling of the documents and the prediction from site founder Julian Assange that the release of the Afghan war records is “the nearest analogue to the Pentagon Papers.”

According to the Post, Assange says that Wikileaks does not “have a view about whether the war should continue or stop.” But he added: “We do have a view that it should be prosecuted as humanely as possible.”

Der Spiegel interviews Assange here. On the release of the documents, he says he expects “they will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars.”

Check back with the Rundown for more on the Afghan war records later Monday.

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Could BP CEO Tony Hayward be on his way out? Media organizations are expecting as much as BP’s board prepares to meet Monday.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The board of BP PLC is negotiating the departure of its embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward, according to people familiar with the matter, a bid by the U.K. oil titan to move beyond the Gulf of Mexico disaster that has undercut his three-year effort to remake the company.

It’s widely expected that BP Managing Director Robert Dudley, the man currently in charge of the Gulf oil spill response, could be named the company’s new CEO.

In a brief statement over the weekend, BP acknowledged the speculation:

BP notes the press speculation over the weekend regarding potential changes to management and the charge for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters. A Board meeting is being held on Monday evening ahead of the announcement of the second quarter results on 27th July. Any decisions will be announced as appropriate.

Despite fears that a tropical storm could stall efforts to kill the leaking well head in the Gulf, crews reversed course over the weekend when conditions improved to resume drilling on a relief well.