Military Intelligence analysis of Afghan war documents

From a military intelligence perspective, the Wiki Leaks documents published earlier in the week are considered to be highly valuable not only as a raw military and intelligence material but also as a manual of how the US commanders operate in the battlefield and in combat situations. The documents therefore will be very helpful to other militaries such as the Chinese or the Russians for example enabling them to get a treasure trove of information on the workings of the US forces during combat operations. Needless to say, that the reactions of combat forces in battles are not necessarily the same each time due to its evolving nature.

As a result of publishing these documents, US commanders on the ground will most likely use coded language in their communications and impose self censorship on what or what not to write in their incident reports knowing that these classified reports might be leaked and become public.

One of the most important things here is that it will be the first time that an argument for war crimes charges against the US can be argued based on raw documentation that came directly from the US military itself.

The significance of the documents, moreover, is that they present a different picture than the one is usually scripted by the White House or the officials at the Department of Defense.

That said, and as in all militaries and in all wars, what’s scripted on paper and said by spokespersons is always different from the messy and horrific situation on the ground. US Air Force General Curtis E. Lemay, for example, who orchestrated a massive incendiary bombing campaign against Japanese cities during World War II, his bombing strategy, was estimated to have killed 500,000 Japanese civilians and left 5 million others homeless and burnt down the majority of Japanese cities.

His bombardment campaign was justified by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations in glossy terms and without mentioning the massive-scale suffering of the Japanese civilians. It was framed as necessary measures to save the lives of the Allied forces if they were to invade Japan. As for his actions during the war, LeMay remarked that if the US was to lose the war, he is expected to be tried for war crimes.

The war in Afghanistan is a low-intensity Counter Insurgency war, COIN, and, of course, not a conventional classical war like that of other wars therefore no one is expecting to discover, in the published or yet to be published documents, something like the equivalent to fire bombing of Japanese cities or the aerial bombing of Vietnam with agent orange that killed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese civilians.

From a political perspective, the Wiki Leaks documents may not have revealed any thing new to policy makers or to the Afghan war political and defense analysts. The US drone attacks against senior members of the Taliban and Al Qaida, or the ultra secretive assassination units that hunts down key members of the insurgency are part of the public record of the war and are well documented by the press.

Incidents of scores of Afghani civilians being killed in the process of drone attacks or bombing campaigns are well publicized occurrences, the documents however paint much more realistic picture than that of the scripted official justifications as put forth by the military spokespersons.

As for the relation of the Pakistani Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) with the Taliban as revealed in the documents, it is really old news. But in publishing the documents in such way and around the world; it placed the Pakistani government on the defensive and questioned its credibility and its true motives vis-à-vis the US and the Taliban.

In Afghanistan, the government of Hamid Karzai welcomed the publications of the documents as it seeks to mend its fences with the Taliban in anticipation of partial US withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. The really bad news these documents brought was for the Afghani civilians who worked or cooperated with American forces and whose names are in the documents.

Ali Younes is a defense and policy analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at [email protected]

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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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