The Afghanistan Protocol: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It
Task Force 373: The Secret Hunters
The members of Task Force 373, a troop of US elite soldiers that includes Navy Seals and members of the Delta Force, receive their orders directly from the Pentagon and are independent of the chain of command of the international ISAF Afghanistan security forces. Their mission is to deactivate top Taliban and terrorists by either killing or capturing them.
For years, a major effort was made to keep a lid on the details of their deployment. With the leaking of the war logs on Sunday, however, their work is an open secret.
The mission reports also offer considerable information about the coalition troops' classified list of enemies. The "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL), as it is soberly referred to in military circles, contains the names of Taliban, drug barons, bombmakers and al-Qaida members -- each with a processing number and a priority level. The decision on whether or not to arrest or kill the targeted person is often left to the hunters themselves.
A total of 84 reports about JPEL actions can be found in the thousands of pieces of data. Experts consider it a fact that targeted killings are taking place in the war in Afghanistan. But no top military officials are willing to discuss the issue. The newly released data now show what command units like Task Force 373 are up to each night -- and how things can also go terribly wrong.
A report on June 17, 2007, for example, includes a warning in the second sentence that this operation of the TF 373 must be "kept protected." Details about the mission could not be provided to other countries contributing to the ISAF forces.
The aim was to kill prominent al-Qaida functionary Abu Laith al-Libi. The special forces suspected that the top terrorist and several of his followers were present at a Koran school the soldiers had been staking out for a number of days.
But after the impact of five American rockets, instead of finding al-Libi, the ground forces discovered six dead children in the rubble of the school. A further seriously injured child was also found but could not be saved.
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