The Times’s reporting is perhaps the most distinguished of the three in that it is the least critical of the U.S.’s prosecution of the war, emphasizing instead revelations over which Americans are likely to feel betrayed. The big WikiLeaks piece the paper runs alongside its summary homes in on revelations that Pakistani’s intelligence agency ISI has been working closely and secretly with the Taliban. Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt, and Andrew W. Lehren’s article, “Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert,” opens:

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.



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.”



Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.