Editorial: WikiLeaks and the Afghan war

On Monday 26 July, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released 75,000 US military logs – part of a collection of over 91,000 classified reports on the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009. The reports paint a picture of chaos, mayhem, corruption and cruelty in a war that the predatory imperialist powers are on course to lose, bringing into open daylight what the US and its allies and satellites have been trying unsuccessfully to hide.

The reports show that the number of civilian casualties and innocent victims of Nato’s war are far higher than those admitted by the invaders; that the US’s Task Force 373, in an effort to reverse the tide of the war, is involved in a massive covert operation to track and kill or capture 2,000 members of the resistance (British forces run similar murder squads in the areas where they operate); and that aerial drones are playing an ever-increasing role in the war, with the resultant large-scale deaths of civilians.Many of the reports, reflecting imperialist disbelief that the Afghan resistance could possibly be capable without outside help of inflicting the damage on the occupation troops that they do, claim that Iran and Pakistan, especially the latter, are financing, training and equipping the resistance. Whether or not this is the case, it is clear that the resistance is far more resilient, is growing far stronger and is getting better-armed than has hitherto been admitted by the invaders.

Although less remarkable than the publication nearly 40 years ago of what came to be called the ‘Pentagon Papers’, when documents relating to the secret official history of the Vietnam war were handed to the New York Times by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg, the material made public by WikiLeaks is the biggest leak in the history of US intelligence.

True, keen observers of the war knew pretty much everything that has been brought to the wider public by the leak, which merely adds detail to what was already known. True, too, that in view of the absence of conscription and of the far lower number of American casualties, the present war cannot be compared to Vietnam (where the US lost 58,000 soldiers). All the same, the latest publication will contribute to strong public doubt about a war that has cost the US more than $300bn (£194bn) so far, with nothing to show for it but an increase in resistance to the occupation with each passing year.

Barely a majority of the US population support the Afghan war now. The WikiLeaks publication, by pointing to the futility of the US-led effort, and the hopelessness of the situation confronting Nato forces, will further wear down the will of the occupying forces and undermine still further what remains of public support for the war in the principal imperialist countries waging it, especially the US and Britain.

In view of this, one should not minimise its significance, for, to use the words of the Financial Times, this “trove is one more millstone round the neck of a US strategy which has this year seen rising fatalities and a change of commander. It adds more urgency to the question Mr Obama must soon answer. Can the US military effort continue? Or is it time for Plan B?” (‘Afghanistan leaks’, 27 July 2010)

And while it may be that there are those among the imperialists who still harbour illusions in some ‘Plan B’ that doesn’t involve getting out of Afghanistan altogether, it is clear that the resistance forces have other ideas!