Afghanistan leaks ‘damaged’ war effort

By Alex Stevenson

The Ministry of Defence has hit out against the mass leaking of US military papers, warning they will damage international forces’ efforts against the Taliban.

An unnamed official told politics.co.uk the release of over 90,000 records by whistleblower website Wikileaks was “abhorrent”.

The leaked daily intelligence reports suggested that hundreds more civilians had been killed or injured because of action by international forces rather than the Taliban.

They also showed the Taliban had been using heat-seeking missiles which target aircraft and that, in some instances, UK forces had shot at unarmed drivers and motorcyclists as they approached patrols or convoys.

Relations between the MoD and the press have been undermined by the reporting of the leaks, despite efforts by newspaper editors to avoid publishing sensitive information.

Major-General Gordon Messenger told journalists yesterday that the leaking of information revealing the names of Afghan informers had had a negative impact.

“The damage is to the Afghans that were named,” he said.

“We rely upon very many Afghans who are prepared to nail their colours to the legitimate Afghan mast.

“If we do anything which undermines that trust that is going to have an impact. There will continue to be brave, committed Afghans… but it isn’t helpful.”

Maj-Gen Messenger added that there was not much the Taliban could “gleam and exploit” from the leaks, however.

But the MoD official went further, criticising the revelations caused by the Wikileaks records.

He told politics.co.uk: “It’s pretty abhorrent to rather irresponsibly put information into the public domain for people that could be at risk.”

The leaks’ biggest impact has been on UK-Pakistani relations, however.

Documents showing Pakistani intelligence agencies had maintained contact with the Taliban have prompted a major diplomatic spat, after prime minister David Cameron said Pakistan could not “look both ways” in the struggle against extremism.