Understanding the Nature of Leaks

Just because Wiki Leaks published its 92, 000 secret US army documents last Monday, it does not mean that those documents contained hard truths or that they revealed any spectacular secrets the US military in Afghanistan was trying to hide from the public. Those documents should not be treated in a matter-of-factly fashion or taken as absolute truths without examining its validity.

That said however, the documents do paint a chaotic day-to-day picture of the war in Afghanistan which is growing more unpopular here in the US. Another important insight the documents showed was the heavy price the Afghani civilians have paid in this war thus opening the door for the possibility of “war crimes” argument against the US forces in Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan was subjected to years of neglect under the Bush administration in favor of the Iraqi war. As a result this war became a low-intensity war that the US is more than likely to lose according to several defense and military analysts.

Of course, the publication of the documents was a major breach of security within the US army in Afghanistan, but, I don’t think they are serious enough to pose a national security threat to the United States interests or troops in the region. Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange said that the published documents did not pose any danger to US service men in Afghanistan, as he promised to publish the remaining 15 thousands more documents after security review of those documents.

Assange was later quoted in the world media as saying that he wants the US to execute the war in Afghanistan more “humanely”, and that the goal of his organization is to reveal secrets and provide access to information. Accordingly, Wiki Leaks is more interested in revealing secrets and information, such as its revelation of the Tax returns of the Scientology Church in the UK, and not necessarily peace activism or opposing wars such as the war in Afghanistan.

The term “secret” which several Arab media outlets, for example, mistakenly treated as “Top Secret” is the minimum requirement of the US military communication between its members and this communication could be about anything. Nevertheless, leaking secrets or even leaking super top secret documents is part of the culture here in Washington and some might even argue that it is also part of the government policy.

One of the most famous leaks in the modern American history was “Pentagon papers” which was a study commissioned in 1967 by Vietnam era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The papers were about US involvement in Vietnam between 1945- 1967 and were completed in 1968. The papers which were classified as Top Secret were leaked to the New York Times in 1971, by one of its authors Daniel Ellsberg.

Another famous leak was the Watergate scandal which was leaked to Washington Post Journalist Bob Woodward by a high ranking member of the FBI which ended up forcing president Nixon his presidency.

A more recent leak was the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003 which later was hinted by the US special prosecutor investigating it, Patrick Fitzgerald, to have been leaked by the White House and the office of the Vice President. Valerie Plame’s name was outed as a CIA operative, which is a criminal offense, in revenge of her husband, ambassador Joe Wilson opposition to the Bush administration plans to invade Iraq.

Looking at the published Wiki Leaks documents, it appears that most of it were “incident reports” between field commanders and their superiors about their encounters and field operations. None of the published documents contained any classified communication between high level commanders and the White House or with the Department of Defense.

Moreover, none of the documents revealed any policy directives regarding the US strategy in Afghanistan, further diminishing their value as a source for an insight into the US strategic thinking regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The documents did reveal, however, discontent of the local army commanders with what they assessed as the Pakistani Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) Involvement in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban. The ISI past and present support of the Taliban is a well known fact in Washington among the law makers in Congress and in the White House.

Pakistan’s apparent double game which on one hand allows the US to launch drone attacks on its own Taliban in its own territories and on the other give strategic advise, training and perhaps weapons to Afghanistan Taliban.

Washington is not unaware of the Pakistani alleged involvement with the Taliban; in fact several US law makers in Congress had pressured the Obama administration on this particular issue demanding that the White House exert pressure on Islamabad to end its supposed involvement with the Taliban. As for Pakistan, Afghanistan is its strategic backyard and cannot afford to allow its mortal enemy India, which maintain close relations with Hamid Karzai government in Kabul and has made billions of dollars worth of investments in Afghanistan, to establish strong presence on its borders and therefore pose a serious threat to its national security.

Overall, the documents revealed how poorly the Bush administration managed the war in Afghanistan which at the end allowed the Taliban to regroup and allowed the serious possibility of the US losing the war and losing Afghanistan.

Ali Younes is a writer and a defense and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He can be reached at:ali.younes@charter.net

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About AliYounes

Ali Younes is an award winning journalist and writer. He is a member of the Arab American Writers Group and an award winning journalist and media strategist.

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