Released Nato files 'only scratch the surface' of war in Afghanistan

Wikileaks claims thousands more classified reports under review

While allied governments strove yesterday to downplay the import of the online posting of more than 75,000 classified documents about Nato's war in Afghanistan, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, said they "only scratched the surface" and 15,000 more papers were still being reviewed.



The mere fact of so vast a collection of secret military missives, reports and memoranda surfacing for all to see on the internet sent a collective chill through Western capitals. The startling episode instantly evoked the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked in 1971 and became a catalyst for public opposition to the South-east Asian conflict.

The White House condemned the publication of the material saying it could threaten the lives of US personnel and other coalition troops. The Pentagon said it was studying the Afghan documents and it would be "days if not weeks" before it could determine the extent of the damage. In London, the Ministry of Defence said it was focusing on reports of civilian deaths allegedly involving British troops.

The Wikileaks revelations have hit at a time when public support for the war is at a low ebb on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially problematic will be those passages indicating the possible collusion between Pakistan's intelligence services and Taliban fighters, and the passage offering descriptions of collateral killings of civilians not previously reported by the authorities. The papers now on view span the period from January 2004 to December 2009.

Regarding civilian deaths, Mr Assange suggested war crimes may have been committed. "It's up to a court to decide, clearly, whether something is in the end a crime," he said at a press conference in London. "That said, there is a prima facie case, there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material."

However aides to the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, argued that the papers may not carry many surprises. "The President's initial reaction was: 'Look, this is nothing new'," Waheed Omar, his spokesman told reporters in Kabul. "Of course it is going to add to the awareness in the world of both these issues [civilian casualties and Pakistani collusion]. But there was nothing surprising in this."

As if to emphasise the point about civilian casualties, Mr Karzai's office announced that a weekend rocket attack had killed 52 people. According to witnesses, insurgents had told a number of villagers in Helmand province to flee their homes ahead of imminent fighting, only for Nato gunships to fire on them as they took cover several kilometres down the road. Nato said an investigation team was on site but that it had accounted for all the rounds its forces had fired without any suggestion that civilians had been hit.

Asked about possible collusion between Pakistan's spy agency and Afghan insurgents, Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said the US administration had always been candid about shortcomings in Pakistan's role but said progress had been made in persuading it to root out Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters. But he added: "Even as they make progress, we understand that the status quo is not acceptable."

The documents on Wikileaks include a report, for example, that the ISI, the Pakistan intelligence agency, in 2007 provided Jalaluddin Haqqani with 1,000 motorcycles to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials reacted testily to the leaks. The documents do not "reflect the current on-ground realities", insisted Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador in Washington.

While no one last night had formally identified the source of the secret materials, Wikileaks said it was ready to help pay for the legal defence of an American army private, Bradley Manning, accused of providing it with a 2007 video of a gunship raid in Iraq that killed innocent civilians, as well as secret cables he allegedly downloaded while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Pte Manning is in custody in Kuwait.

The Pentagon probe of the papers was confirmed by spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan. "We will be looking at them to try to determine the potential damage to lives of our service members and our coalition partners, whether they reveal sources and methods and any potential damage to national security," he said. "It will take a matter of days if not weeks, again depending on how these documents are actually made available so that they can be reviewed."

The Ministry of Defence said it was examining every one of the 21 claims that British troops fired on Afghan civilians, including women and children. While the incidents make up only a small portion of the 369 civilian casualties listed on the war logs as caused by coalition troops, it states that at least 26 people – including 16 children – were killed by UK forces while another 20 were wounded. Some of the incidents have already been reported through the normal channels but last night the MoD said it would not discuss the issue further until a complete examination of all the cases had been conducted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Events Business) - Manchester - Urgent!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A teacher of Science is required by this 11...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this Co-educatio...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea