Afghan Officials: Leaks Confirm Fears About War

Afghan officials say the leaked documents corroborate what they've been saying for years: that Pakistan is destabilizing Afghanistan; that civilian casualties undermine support for the U.S.-led war effort and aid the Taliban; and that heat-seeking missiles in Taliban hands come from several countries, proving that this has become a regional war.

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In Afghanistan, news of the leaked documents is still trickling out to the public, but government sources, as well as those sympathetic to the Taliban insurgency, are already taking note and using the information to support their arguments.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports from Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE: Official spokesman for international forces here in Afghanistan have refused to comment so far on the leaks or any of the issues raised by the trove of classified military information. Likewise, it was clear that the Afghan government was only beginning to delve into the mountain of documents.

Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said that so far the leaked reports underscore what the Afghan government has been saying for years.

Mr. WAHEED OMAR (Afghan Presidential Spokesman): Two things that is obvious in most of the documents that we have read so far: civilian casualty cases and the role that ISI has played in destabilizing activities inside Afghanistan. Our stance on both these issues has been very clear over the years.

LAWRENCE: Kabul has long accused the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, of aiding suicide bombers in planning attacks inside Afghanistan. And the leaked documents bolster those charges. Civilian casualties, Omar said, were indeed a huge problem during the years covered by most of the leaked documents. But he says new measures taken by the U.S. military here are helping.

Mr. OMAR: By now, in 2010, there is a common understanding of the fact that one of the problems that has negatively impacted our joint effort to deter terrorism in Afghanistan is over the years our lack of attention to the protection of the Afghan people. But that said, we believe there has been some good progress over the past one-and-a-half years.

LAWRENCE: Still, the leaked information that civilian casualties had been understated in the past reinforced the distrust felt by many in Kabul, especially critics of the Americans.

Wahid Mujda, a former Taliban minister who lives in Kabul, says the official story is still at odds with the facts on the ground.

Mr. WAHID MUJDA (Former Taliban Minister): (Speaking foreign language)

LAWRENCE: Independent journalists are not allowed to go to those areas, he said. So it's not possible to get accurate figures. Mujda believes that the U.S. military kills innocent civilians and then claims they're Taliban.

U.S. military sources as well as United Nations officials now say that the majority of civilian casualties are caused by Taliban bullets and roadside bombs. But the perception that it is American forces killing innocent Afghans still remains.

Today in Kabul, President Karzai condemned an incident last week in which according to Afghan security sources, an errant American missile killed over 50 civilian men, women and children. American military spokesmen say they are investigating the incident.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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