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Weekly News Roundup: WikiLeaks, PFC Bradley Manning and Endgame in Afghanistan

written by Matt Elliott
on July 30, 2010

wikileaks.jpgThe release of the Afghan War Diary (also called The War Logs) last Sunday by WikiLeaks has dominated the headlines this week. It includes more than 75,000 classified military incident and intelligence reports from 2004 to 2010 about the war in Afghanistan. The documents show the war from the perspective of the soldiers fighting it, the frustrations and confusions they face, and errors they've made that have resulted in civilian deaths. The reports also show that Pakistan, our supposed ally, is playing both sides, receiving billions in aid from the United States while funneling support to Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.

In The New York Times summary of the documents, retired general Hamid Gul, who ran Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligences, emerges as a key figure. Gul was in charge of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, when Pakistani spies worked with the CIA to run guns and money to Afghans fighting the Soviets. After the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan, Gul maintained his contacts with the mujahideen fighters, who eventually morphed into the Taliban as they took control of the country. According to the leaked documents, Gul has planned attacks with Afghan insurgents against coalition forces, and in exchange, he has offered to turn a blind eye to the Taliban's presence in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The other figure to emerge this week is the alleged leaker himself. Bradley Manning, a 22-year Army intelligence analyst, has been accused of leaking the documents. The Wall Street Journal reports that a U.S. Defense Dept. official has stated that Manning left concrete evidence on computers he had used. Manning was actually charged earlier this month with leaking a classified video that showed U.S. forces killing a Reuters reporter and his driver. According to Politico, Manning is on his way back to the United States.

"U.S. Army officials transferred PFC Bradley Manning from the Theater Field Confinement Facility in Kuwait to the Marine Corps Base Quantico Brig in Quantico, Virginia, on July 29," Major Bryan Woods, an Army spokesman, said in an email to reporters.

To gain some perspective on the leaks, check out Propublica's interview with Neil Sheehan, the former New York Times reporter to whom the Pentagon Papers were first leaked by military analyst and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 1971. Sheehan draws interesting parallels between the Pentagon Papers and the Afghan war logs and between the Vietnam War and the current war in Afghanistan.

Another diary from Afghanistan was published this week. It does not contain classified documents but still tells an eye-opening story. Guardian filmmaker and photographer Sean Smith spent five weeks in Afghanistan in June and the first half of July, with a U.S. helicopter ambulance crew and then with the Marines. He made a 15-minute film called Endgame in Afghanistan that takes you in an Air Force helicopter that picks up the wounded and takes you on a foot patrol with a group of Marines. It is brutal and gripping and shows the true cost of the war we are fighting in Afghanistan.

Lost in the news of the Afghan war logs is the somber anniversary this week of three U.S. hikers who have been imprisoned in Iran for the last year without being charged or allowed legal counsel. It was July 31, 2009, when UC-Berkeley graduates Sarah Shourd, 31, Shane Bauer, 28, and Josh Fattal, 28, were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border by Iranian police who said the three had crossed illegally into Iran. Protests are planned for this weekend in cities around the world to raise awareness of their year-long confinement, starting Friday in New York City.

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