Despite attempts by the US administration to downplay the impact of the recently leaked files on the Afghan conflict, reports have revealed that it could put many lives at risk.
According to The Times (subscription required):
Hundreds of Afghan lives have been put at risk by the leaking of 90,000 intelligence documents because the files identify informants working with Nato forces.
In just two hours of searching the WikiLeaks archive, The Times found the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed intelligence to US forces. Their villages are given for identification and also, in many cases, their fathers’ names.
US officers recorded detailed logs of the information fed to them by named local people, particularly tribal elders. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, claimed on Monday that all the documents released through his organisation had been checked for named informants and that 15,000 such documents had been held back.
The Afghan Government has reacted with horror to the volume of information contained in the files.
A senior official at the Afghan Foreign Ministry, who declined to be named, said: “The leaks certainly have put in real risk and danger the lives and integrity of many Afghans. The US is both morally and legally responsible for any harm that the leaks might cause to the individuals, particularly those who have been named. It will further limit the US/international access to the uncensored views of Afghans.”
The Pentagon’s Col. Dave Lapan has referred to the leaks as a “criminal act”, but this is not simply a legal issue. When Julian Assange (Wikileaks founder) deliberated about whether or not to leak these documents, he should have given greater consideration to this moral dilemma, and decided not to risk hundreds of Afghan lives.
Those who may now die horrific deaths as a result of this are not our soldiers, but equally brave Afghans who made the choice to fight against the Taliban. By releasing this information, Wikileaks may have set out to pour pressure on those at the top of the US military and government, but instead has ended up punishing those who deserve it the least.