Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks Contributes to Understanding of Casualty Burden in Afghanistan

On Sunday thousands of leaked US military reports about the war in Afghanistan were published by the Guardian, New York Times, Der Speigel and Wikileaks.  The full ramifications of this release of data will not be known for some time, although increased tension between allies in the US coalition is already emerging.

In terms of understanding the casualty burden of the war what can these classified reports it tell us? Some issues have been reported on in the first two days whilst others may take longer to emerge.
- Although there are144 entries in the logs recording the killing of civilians by US coalition forces (so-called "blue on white" events), triangulation with journalists reports indicate that killing of civilians is often unreported, even in internal military documents.
- Retaliatory killings of civilians by US coalition forces appear to be common place, and have included the mortoring of a wedding party by Polish forces, and machine gunning of a bus by US soldiers.
- British forces have been involved in clusters of attacks on civilians, and these may be associated with particular units and times of tension.
- Reports of military actions have misrepresented casualties and tried to portray the victims as combatants when it was known they were civilians.
- CIA paramilitaries and secret special forces have been involved in civilian killings as well as regular military forces.
- The military capabilities of the Taliban are greater than previously reported in mainstream media, especially in their ability to target helicopters.
- There has been a massive increase in the use of IEDs by the Taliban, with 7,155 events recorded last year, resulting in greatly increased risks of collateral damage to civilians.
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