The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.
The reporters focus heavily on the involvement of former ISI leader Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul in insurgency efforts, including suicide bombings, and highlight the U.S. government’s frustration with its supposed regional ally.
American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s Embassy in Kabul.
From the current trove, one report shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack.
German news magazine Der Spiegel also gives heavy weight to the ISI and the former general, using the revelation less to reveal a betrayal than as part of cumulative evidence of the inadequate nature of the war’s execution. Under the subheading “System Failures, Computer Glitches and Human Error,” in a section that includes details on the failures and problems of drones, its reporters write:
The documents clearly show that the Pakistani intelligence agency is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan. The war against the Afghan security forces, the Americans and their ISAF allies is still being conducted from Pakistan.
The country is an important safe haven for enemy forces — and serves as a base for issuing their deployment. New recruits to the Taliban stream across the Pakistan-Afghan border, including feared foreign fighters — among them Arabs, Chechnyans, Uzbekis, Uighurs and even European Islamists.
According to the war logs, the ISI envoys are present when insurgent commanders hold war councils — and even give specific orders to carry out murders. These include orders to try to assassinate Afghan President Hamid Karzai. For example, a threat report dated August 21, 2008 warned: “Colonel Mohammad Yusuf from the ISI had directed Taliban official Maulawi Izzatullah to see that Karzai was assassinated.”
Highlighting the inadequacies of the coalition’s war in Afghanistan, the magazine takes a decidedly local angle, writing that “Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr… stumbled into the conflict with great naivety.” Der Spiegel’s reporters lift from “threat reports” in the WikiLeaks documents that show the Bundeswehr were in greater danger in northern Afghanistan than the German government had indicated, or the soldiers had anticipated, in the region they had once joked was like a spa town.
In a “threat report” dated May 31, 2007, German troops based in Kunduz reported on the general situation following another suicide attack. “Contrary to all expectations of the Regional Command North, the attacks of the insurgents in Kunduz are going on as foreseen by the Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunduz and mentioned before several times,” the German document states, adding that more attacks, particularly against ISAF troops, “are strongly expected.”
The soldiers appear to have been correct to have felt they were under a state of siege. The documents that have been obtained are comprised primarily of so-called “threat reports,” thousands of danger scenarios and concrete warnings about planned attacks. These reports provide a clearer picture of the deterioration of the security situation in northern Afghanistan than the information provided by the German government or the federal parliament, the Bundestag, which must provide a legal mandate for the Bundeswehr’s deployments abroad. Police checkpoints are constantly attacked or come under fire, patrols are targeted in deadly ambushes and roadside bombs explode.
The left-wing magazine concludes its story with an ominous diagnosis for the future of the mountainous northern combat zone in which the German army is fighting.
One thing, however, is certain. These thousands of documents indicate that, after almost nine years of war, a victory in Hindu Kush looks farther away than ever.
Across the Channel, The Guardian offers the kind of excellent interactive, video-packed online package we’ve come to expect from the newspaper industry’s Web leader. Covering the basic revelations of the documents, its reporting is steered by an outrage at the number of unreported civilian casualties unveiled by the WikiLeaks logs (you can see the number and location of these casualties—along with casualties among Afghan and coalition troops—in an interactive map from The Guardian here.)