Editor's note: The following article is an excerpt from this week's SPIEGEL cover story. The facts in the story come from a database of almost 92,000 American military reports on the state of the war in Afghanistan that were obtained by the WikiLeaks website. Britain's Guardian newspaper, the New York Times and SPIEGEL have all vetted the material and reported on the contents in articles that have been researched independently of each other. All three media sources have concluded that the documents are authentic and provide an unvarnished image of the war in Afghanstan -- from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground.
The close to 92,000 log reports obtained by WikiLeaks do not include any new instances of excessive violence against civilians or illegal clandestine operations on the part of the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan, but they do show how poorly prepared Germany and its military were when they entered the Afghanistan war -- and why their mission will likely remain unfulfilled in the end.
The German army was clueless and na´ve when it stumbled into the conflict. The Germans had expected that the relatively calm northern provinces where their soldiers were stationed would remain peaceful. Moreover, they believed their reconstruction teams would provide a model for the other allies on how best to help this country ravaged by civil war.
The first true resistance to the international troop presence in Afghanistan only began to form in late 2005 and early 2006, and it only developed when the insurgents began offering money to people willing to join the resistance and threatening those who weren't. Report after report in the raft of war logs note that the population was offered money in exchange for their active support of the insurgents.
For example, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan -- a terrorist group supported by al-Qaida that operates in the north near the border with Tajikistan, an area that is under the command of Germany's Bundeswehr -- offered local residents in the Takhar Province $700 to help it place roadside bombs along the main logistical routes used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
$1,000 For a Successful Attack
In one report, an ISAF informant revealed that local Afghans, because they are relatively inconspicuous, are used to plant the bombs, which are then detonated by specialists. In Chapchi, a town in Badakshan Province, which is also in the zone assigned to the Germans, a Taliban commander even offered to pay $1,000 for the successful completion of an attack -- a lot of money in a country where the average annual per capita income is less than $500.
Meanwhile, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the Western alliance's most powerful enemies after the Taliban, has opened up his own deep pockets to fund the insurgency. "If you have any dignity left, join forces and attack the enemy," Hekmatyar told loyal followers of his group Hizb-e-Islami in the Logar Province. "Attack him with Stinger missiles, and no matter what the cost, $150,000 or $200,000, I will pay." When he made the statement in mid-March 2005, the resistance movement was still only limping along.
Hekmatyar is a veteran. An Islamist born in Kunduz Province, he fought against the Russians and, after they were driven out, he was part of the power struggle that laid waste to the capital, Kabul. These days, he is a fierce enemy of the Americans -- at least for the time being.
They may find some inspiration in Hekmatyar's rousing words, but his followers in the north are more likely to have found their fighting spirit as a result of the 100,000 to 500,000 Afghani ($2,000-$10,000) he distributed to every group leader. The war logs carefully note the words and investments of this generous Afghan extremist.
Foreign Fighters Play Key Role
While the Afghans were still hesitant to join the new conflict between the West and the Islamists in 2006, foreign fighters -- Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Chinese Uighurs -- played a key role from the start. They were ideological hardliners with close ties to al-Qaida, and they had a wealth of experience in the use of bomb attacks and suicide bombings, which were largely unknown in Afghanistan until then. In this way, the deadly techniques that had been used in the Iraq war were transferred to Afghanistan.
The first report of the notorious foreign fighters surfacing in northern Afghanistan was documented in the war logs on July 15, 2005. According to the entry, five Chechens arrived in the city of Kunduz to deliver modern weapons to a Taliban commander and attack the United Nations office there. The attack that was supposedly planned did not take place, but the transfer of technical know-how and new weapons systems to the Taliban described in the document would later contribute to the Germans' plight in Kunduz.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is also associated with the foreign jihadists. Haqqani, known as "Siraj," is the son of the legendary Afghan mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. Together with the Taliban and Hekmatyar, the Haqqani clan of warlords are among the three greatest opponents of Western forces in Afghanistan. In the digital war logs, his name appeared in "Tier 1" on a list of targets to be killed or taken captive, which qualified him as one of the Western alliance's most wanted terrorists.
Although Haqqani's fighters were concentrated primarily in the eastern part of the country, their presence was also felt in the north. According to an ISAF informant, a representative of Haqqani met with the leaders of the insurgency in Kunduz Province, Taliban commanders Mullah Rustam and Mullah Salam. Kunduz is the province where the largest number of German soldiers have died in attacks, ambushes and gun battles.
Attacks Planned Against German Reconstruction Team
In 2005, there were already signs that Rustam's fighters were planning to strike. Informants reported that, under Rustam's leadership, attacks were to be directed against the German reconstruction team in Kunduz "with modified motorcycles and bicycles."
Most of the reports provided specific details of ambushes and improvised explosive devices, but they also included warnings about possible kidnappings. The targets included employees of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which is aiding in reconstruction efforts in the Hindu Kush.
But from the Taliban's perspective, Rustam was apparently ineffective and his deputy, Mullah Salam, soon took over. The ISAF informants carefully monitored the change in command.
Salam ran a tight ship. After he took over, the commanders under his control were required to explain their plans in detail, discuss the likelihood of success and obtain his approval prior to each planned attack.
Both Mullah Salam and Mullah Rustam were at the top of the Western allies' so-called "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL), the classified list of the coalition troops' enemies including the names of Taliban, drug barons, bomb-makers and al-Qaida members, each with a number and a priority level. Soldiers with Germany's elite KSK special forces unit tried to capture them several times without success.
Stay informed with our free news services:
|All news from SPIEGEL International||Twitter | RSS|
|All news from Germany section||RSS|
ę SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH