The World From Berlin 'War Logs Could Shatter Hopes of Success in Afghanistan'

The uncovering of almost 92,000 United States military war logs by WikiLeaks provides further evidence that the US and its allies are failing to make headway in Afghanistan, write German commentators. The logs may contain few surprises, but their gruesome illustration of the scale of operations over years has the potential to wreck any hopes that the war can be won.

US soldiers watching an air strike they called in during a gun battle in southern Afghanistan, July 23, 2010.

US soldiers watching an air strike they called in during a gun battle in southern Afghanistan, July 23, 2010.

The 91,731 war logs uncovered by WikiLeaks and provided to SPIEGEL, the Guardian and the New York Times are likely to fan public opposition to the mission in the West because they outline in compelling detail how the allies are failing to bring peace to Afghanistan, German media commentators write.

There is general agreement among editorial writers that the logs don't warrant a fundamental reassessment of the war because it is widely known that the fight against Taliban insurgents isn't going well. But in giving an unvarnished portrayal of the fighting, the thousands of terse accounts of combat operations, ambushes, accidents and friendly fire incidents have the potential to wreck all hopes that the international community can bring peace to Afghanistan.

While some conservative newspapers question whether the documents should have been published, the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung says the logs highlight the power of the Internet which has become a threat for nations waging war.

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The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The sum total of these logs provides the depressing picture of a war-infested region with blurred front lines, shifting loyalties and vague war aims. It leaves the impression that the life purpose of the Taliban and many Afghans is to fight. And above all it leaves the impression that the 46 nations don't belong in this barren place because they have nothing to gain."

"The documents basically prove what was already known. But there are many new details to process -- about Pakistan, about the danger for aircraft from surface-to-air missiles and about the extent of targeted killings by American commando units. There is a sensational volume of evidence for the extent of resignation that can be read out of these logs. The sheer number of reports of failures shows that the allies in all these years have never succeeded in changing the fundamental momentum of the conflict. As hard as the international forces tried, the country never wanted to work according to its rules. But even that isn't new anymore."

"The publication represents a watershed in this age of the Internet. The Web has become a threat for nations at war because secret information is critical for the success or failure of a conflict. Anyone who reveals a secret and can distribute such a gigantic volume of logs can influence the war. One can approve or disapprove of that, but one can't ignore it."

"The logs have the potential to shatter any remaining hope for a military and political success in Afghanistan. They will fan public resistance against the war particularly in the US, four months ahead of mid-term elections."

"But Afghanistan's true dilemma won't be explained by the war logs, and the US and its 45 allies still haven't understood it: Why does Afghanistan keep rejecting any peaceful order? So many documents. So few answers."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"The publication of the war logs shows once again how problematic WikiLeaks' strategy is: No one knows where the information comes from, whether they're authentic and what the intention was in leaking them. No one can decide if WikiLeaks isn't itself pursuing a political agenda under the guise of investigative journalism. And it can't be ruled out that the information published could endanger the security of Allied soldiers in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks head Julian Assange is portraying himself as the Robin Hood of the Internet age, a selfless provider of truth."

The left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

"One can draw two conclusions from the publication of the war logs: A) We need time, more time than has so far been stated publicly, to get to grips with the country. So we'll have to stay there longer, with even more troops. B) We haven't succeeded so far. So we won't succeed in the years to come. So we should leave as soon as possible."

"It might be that the reports have found their way into the public arena at this point in time in order to promote the first conclusion. Maybe the source feeding WikiLeaks isn't as far removed from the American government as we assume."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"President Obama and the German government now face the prospect of even stronger public opposition to the war following the publication of these partly gruesome and apparently authentic descriptions from the front line that show the fighting from its dirtiest side. This public reaction might be understandable, and WikiLeaks might even have desired it to be so. But the facts wouldn't justify it."

"Seen soberly, the information extracted by journalists from this mass of documents provides no reason for a new assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. Apart from some information about the role of Pakistan, the logs haven't revealed anything decisively new. For the most part they document the often terrible but unsurprising details of individual operations."

"The basic facts were already known. It won't have escaped the US or German public that military operations in Afghanistan aren't running optimally, to put it mildly."

"The publication by WikiLeaks may serve to show the world the horrors of the Afghan war. But it doesn't qualify as an argument against the mission."

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"These documents don't warrant a completely new assessment. We knew already that the situation is serious in Afghanistan. But the information that the Taliban have access to portable anti-aircraft missiles gives cause for concern. Such weapons contributed to the victory of the mujahideen against the Soviet troops in the 1980s. But one shouldn't make any knee-jerk comparisons here. It is also worrying if the Pakistani intelligence service ISI ... is continuing to support the Taliban and other extremist Islamic groups. But the logs don't amount to conclusive evidence. This begs the question whether the public interest justifies such a massive betrayal of secrets."

David Crossland


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