BBC News | 26 July 2010 | 10:06 GMT
The United States has condemned as "irresponsible" the leak of 90,000 military records, saying publication could threaten national security. The documents released by the Wikileaks website include details of killings of Afghan civilians unreported until now. Three news organisations had advance access to the records, which also show NATO concerns that Pakistan and Iran are helping the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied claims its intelligence agency backed the Taliban. The huge cache of classified papers – posted by Wikileaks as the Afghan War Diary – is one of the biggest leaks in US history. It was given to the New York Times, the Guardian and the German news magazine, Der Spiegel.
In a statement, US National Security Adviser Gen James Jones said such classified information "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk". He said the documents covered the period from 2004 to 2009, before President Obama "announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan". Pakistan denied claims its intelligence agency, the ISI, backed the Taliban in the war in Afghanistan. "I think that the American leadership knows what Pakistan is doing," Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, told the BBC. "We have paid a price in treasure and in blood over the last two years. More Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists, including our military officers and intelligence service officials. "We are not going to be distracted by something like this," he said.
The reports also suggest:
The Taliban has had access to portable heat-seeking missiles to shoot at aircraft.
A secret US unit of army and navy special forces has been engaged on missions to "capture or kill" top insurgents.
Many civilian casualties – caused by Taliban roadside bombs and NATO missions that went wrong – have gone unreported.
But the head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate said the leak came at a "critical stage" for US policy in the region. "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan," Democratic senator John Kerry said. Wikileaks says it has delayed the release of about 15,000 reports from the archive as part of a "harm minimisation process demanded by our source". The Guardian and the New York Times say they had no contact with the original source of the leak, but spent weeks crosschecking the information. Earlier this year, Wikileaks posted a video on its website which it said showed the killings of civilians by the US military in Baghdad in 2007. A US military analyst, Bradley Manning, is awaiting trial on criminal charges of leaking the video. A former hacker, Adrian Lamo, said Mr Manning boasted to him about handing over military videos and 260,000 classified US embassy messages to Wikileaks.
Wikileaks has refused to identify its source for the video or the US military documents. Meanwhile, NATO says it is investigating reports that as many as 45 civilians died in an air strike in Helmand province on Friday. Although an initial NATO investigation found no evidence, a BBC journalist visiting Regey village spoke to several people who said they had witnessed the incident. They said the attack had come in daylight as dozens sheltered from fighting in nearby Joshani. A NATO spokesman said international forces went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. "The safety of the Afghan people is very important to the International Security Assistance Forces," Lt Col Chris Hughes added.