Karzai calls WikiLeaks disclosures 'shocking' and dangerous to Afghan informants

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.org, speaks with The Washington Post's Rocci Fisch and answers reader questions on just released secret Afghan war documents published by the web site.
By Joshua Partlow and Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2010; 9:45 AM

KABUL -- President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that the disclosure of the names of Afghan informants in the trove of classified U.S. military documents posted online by the WikiLeaks Web site was "extremely irresponsible and shocking."

Karzai, in a news conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, said that the informants, "whether those individuals acted legitimately or illegitimately in providing information to the NATO forces, they are lives, and those lives will be in danger now."

"We consider that extremely irresponsible and an act that one cannot overlook," Karzai said.

Karzai has ordered the Afghan foreign ministry and national security council to study the WikiLeaks documents to determine whether the incidents described in the military reports are true, and whether there is new information that the Afghan government can use in its fight against terrorism.

The Pentagon has also assigned a team of officers to begin combing through the data in the tens of thousands of reports in search of security breaches that could endanger U.S. troops or compromise the mission in Afghanistan. The revelations in the documents -- most of which predate the past six months -- don't appear to pose much risk to U.S. military officers.

But the documents do include the names of dozens of Afghan villagers who approached U.S. forces to provide information on the Taliban in their area. Senior military officials, however, said that they don't have the time or staff to dedicate to sorting through the WikiLeaks reports.

In regional command east, where U.S. forces have maintained a steady presence since 2004, when the documents begin, senior officers were consumed by the search for a missing sailor who was captured by the Taliban. The sailor has since been found dead.

"I have not seen any of the documents," said one senior military official in Afghanistan. "I knew there could potentially be some damaging information here on folks that had worked with coalition forces. . . . I am digging into how we'll get at this now."

It's not clear, however, what U.S. commanders can do about the breach. Most of the informants identified in the documents are village elders or relatively impoverished Afghans from remote villages where insurgent forces remain strong. U.S. troops don't have the manpower to offer them round-the-clock protection or the resources to help them move elsewhere.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said that his organization chose not to publish 15,000 of the more than 90,000 documents in order to protect the names of Afghan informants. But such information is easily found in the documents that were posted online.

In his news conference on Thursday, Karzai also urged the U.S. to do more to confront insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. Among the disclosures in the WikiLeaks documents were U.S. military officers blaming Pakistan's intelligence service of helping to organize attacks in Afghanistan. Karzai said that Afghanistan has good relations with Pakistan, but only international forces have the capability of pressuring Taliban sanctuaries across the border.

"The question is, why are they not doing it?" Karzai said.

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