Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra

July 26, 2010

wikileakIn many ways the documents released by WikiLeaks last night merely underscored the bleak assessment of the Afghan war which General Stanley McChrystal issued last August.

At the time McChrystal warned the overall situation was “deteriorating”, complained of “under-resourcing” and called for not just more resources but a “fundamentally new approach” from NATO forces if failure were to be avoided.

McChrystal, who had access to a whole lot more information than WikiLeaks, said the Taliban were aided by “elements of some intelligence agencies” — meaning the Pakistanis — something US officials have been saying for years. He talked of a popular “crisis of confidence” with the government of Afghanistan and warned that the steady stream of civilian casualties had to be stemmed.

The administration is arguing these documents, which date until December 2009, are merely an account of the failures of former President George W. Bush’s policy, and in many ways they have a point.

There is nothing in here remotely as explosive as the Pentagon Papers, which documented systematic lying about the conduct of the Vietnam war. But the Kabul War Diary catalogues the failures and problems of the Afghan conflict in huge detail, often from the perspective of ordinary troops. The documents record a constant stream of engagements in which civilians were killed, and help substantiate the allegations against Pakistan.

All this only serves to reinforce the popular perception that this war is unwinnable.

What is more: many of the problems highlighted in these reports still exist today – especially the allegations the Pakistanis are playing a double game, and the issue of Afghan government and police corruption. Pessimists say there is very little sign of progress on these fronts, or even a coherent strategy to address these problems.
Here are our top stories from today:

Leaked U.S. archive fuels doubts on Afghan war

The Obama administration scrambled to manage the explosive leak of secret military records that paint a grim picture of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and raise new doubts about key ally Pakistan. The release of some 91,000 classified documents is likely to fuel uncertainty in the U.S. Congress about the unpopular war as President Barack Obama sends 30,000 more soldiers into the battle to break the Taliban insurgency.

For more of Susan Cornwell and Andy Quinn’s story, click here.

 

Pakistan slow to break with Taliban, U.S. says

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies believe some elements within Pakistan’s intelligence service maintain contact with and may even in some cases support the Taliban and its allies, but assistance for insurgents has been slowly curtailed.

For more of this story by Adam Entous and Phil Stewart, click here.

For highlights of the WikiLeaks reports, click here.

 

WikiLeaks fuels negative war debate for Obama

Leaked documents on the Afghanistan conflict, including accusations that U.S. ally Pakistan is helping the Taliban, further complicate President Barack Obama’s strategy at a time of mounting doubt over the war effort. While Pakistan’s covert support for the Taliban has been reported for years, experts say that revelations about this support contained in documents made available by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks add to existing skepticism over the efficacy of the U.S. engagement with Pakistan.

Read Sue Pleming’s full analysis, here.

WikiLeaks cuts a new, wired path for journalism

The Pentagon said it could take weeks to determine how much damage WikiLeaks’ release of military documents on the war in Afghanistan did to national security. It took only minutes to gauge its effect on the way people get news. The episode underscores how the Web and social media give groups that did not exist a few years ago central roles in journalism, and how mainstream media outlets still play a key role in analyzing and disseminating news.

To read an analysis by Robert MacMillan and Peter Griffiths, click here.

Republican Pawlenty says may make 2012 White House run

Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said he will decide early next year whether to run for president in 2012 and that at this point he believes Democratic President Barack Obama is beatable. In an interview, Pawlenty said he is spending the rest of this year serving out his second term as governor and helping elect Republicans to the U.S. Congress and as state governors in Nov. 2 elections.

For the full interview by Steve Holland, click here.

From one of our DC correspondents on assignment in Alabama…

Spill puts Obama’s oil fund chief on hostile turf

The man who acquired a solid gold reputation for fixing sticky situations for the U.S. government is facing one of his toughest challenges yet: running BP Plc’s $20 billion compensation fund. Kenneth Feinberg, lawyer extraordinaire, was in charge of compensating victims’ families after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and presided over executive pay at bailed-out Wall Street firms. But the job President Barack Obama has asked him to do — deciding who will be compensated from BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — is placing Feinberg in hostile territory where residents are still reeling from the federal government’s bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

For the full story by Leigh Coleman and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Some opinion from one of our columnists…

Sarah Palin, big political lies and the U.S. immigration debate

The prize for the biggest political lie of 2009 went to Sarah Palin, the darling of the American right, for injecting fictitious “death panels” into the health reform debate. This year, fact-benders are hard at work to control the debate on another controversial topic, immigration.

To read more from World Affairs columnist Bernd Debusmann, click here.

And some stories from elsewhere in the world…

Ex-trader accused of fraud seeks to clear name on TV

A former Wall Street trader accused with associates of swindling more than $140 million from investors is angling for his own reality television show, eager to prove his innocence in the court of public opinion.

For more of this story, click here.

NZ teenager survives fall from 16th story balcony

A 15-year-old New Zealand boy has survived with minor injuries after falling 16-stories from the balcony of his family’s apartment onto a concrete floor, New Zealand media reported.

To read the full story, click here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Andrew Winning(WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds up a  newspaper at press conference in London) REUTERS/Bob Strong (US soldiers at Combat Outpost Nolen, north of Kandahar )

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