Socialist Worker

Deceit and disaster: Afghanistan laid bare by leaked documents

Siân Ruddick looks at explosive new documents revealing the brutality at the heart of the Afghan occupation—and proving anti-war activists right

Issue No. 2212

A leak of US military documents this week has exposed the long hum of tragedy and brutality in Afghanistan.

Wikileaks released the documents, which detail the daily grind of the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to December 2009.

The revelations come as the entire British establishment seems to have concluded that the war in Iraq was illegal (see below).

Both events have further discredited the so-called “war on terror”.

But the lies and indiscriminate killing described in the documents continues—and Afghanistan has become even more dangerous.

So on Friday of last week, a Nato rocket killed 45 civilians in a village in the Sangin district, in Helmand. The dead and injured included women and children (picture above).

Nato originally claimed it had “no operational reporting that correlates to this alleged incident.” It backtracked within hours.

The leaked documents cover a huge number of incidents. They include “friendly fire” between Nato forces, unmanned drone attacks and assaults on villages.

They detail the murder of civilians at checkpoints, in the streets, in their homes and on protests against the occupiers.

While the files are US military documents, some significant reports refer to the actions of the British soldiers and commanders (see box below).

The code NOFORN—not to be released to foreign nationals—appears on scores of the most sensitive reports.


One such report describes an assault by a US unit called Task Force 373, which has a mandate to “kill or capture” targets on US intelligence lists.

On 17 June 2007, TF373 attacked a village compound in Paktika province looking for Libyan fighter Abu Laith al-Libi.

They were armed with new weapons—six missiles mounted together on the back of a small truck, known as Himars.

The initial assessment shows that they killed seven non-combatants—all of them children.

The report failed to note that the troops had fired the missiles before receiving any fire from the compound that they destroyed.

It was noted as NOFORN with the explanation: “The knowledge that the TF373 conducted a Himars strike must be protected”.

The documents show that death is commonplace. Teenagers on motorbikes are killed at checkpoints.

Soldiers opened fire on a coach that didn’t pull over to let them cross the road—killing four civilians.

One incident of “friendly fire” explains how US soldiers fired into the dark towards a torch light in June 2007. Seven Afghan police officers died and four were wounded.


Reports also describe the conflict between different sections of the Afghan security force—the police, army and border controls.

One report mentions how Afghan soldiers were “high on opium, having a party” when a fight broke out and shooting started. A British soldier also fired a shot, One border guard died.

Border guards have been accused of extorting money out of people at checkpoints and police are accused of bribery.

The occupying forces’ claim that they are making the country a safer place is a sick lie.

Those at the top now accept that the war in Iraq was wrong. Yet they are deploying the same disastrous strategy in Afghanistan.

The only chance for peace is for all troops to leave and for the Afghan people to run their own country.

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