A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.
The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.
Update: FP Passport notes Wikileaks has updated their methodology for releasing these classified documents…
But one prominent advocate of government openness who has previously been critical of Wikileaks sees the organization as behaving more responsibly with its latest document dump. This time, Wikileaks gave three reputable news outlets weeks to review, verify, and contextualize the documents, and says it is withholding (for now) about 15,000 reports “as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.”
“After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits,” the site says.