When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the massive leak of more than 90,000 classified documents, he claimed that he was exposing “thousands” of possible American war crimes. The documents show nothing of the sort. Some of the documents do detail the brutality of war, and the unsurprising fact that mistakes are made. Assange’s anti-American myopia prevented him from seeing what the documents really demonstrate: American-led forces face an especially savage enemy.
Of course, we didn’t need the WikiLeaks cache of documents to tell us this. There is plenty of evidence for the whole world to see. Still, the documents demonstrate just how pervasive the Taliban’s brutality is in this fight. The Taliban and its jihadist allies have an unparalleled lust for blood, beheading their enemies (both real and imagined) on a regular basis. It is difficult to think of a more savage act.
Here are just some examples, chosen from many, found in the documents released by WikiLeaks.
A March 13, 2007 entry reads: “Mullah Jamal Adin, who lived in the village of Nawroz Kel…was shot twice in the head and decapitated because of his support of the IRoA and coalition forces.”
A March 27, 2007 intelligence report notes that an Afghan man was found beheaded by his uncle, and fellow villagers. The intelligence report reads:
Two Night Letters left with the victim stated that the victim had worked for the Afghan Government in Gazni and expressed pro-Coalition sympathies. He had recently preached against the Taliban at a local mosque. As a punishment for his association with the Afghan Government and Coalition forces, the victim was beheaded.
The Taliban’s “Night Letters” are frequently posted at public locations, such as mosques, in an attempt to intimidate the populace into submission.
Citing an article by the Associated Press, an April 22, 2007 entry reads: “Assailants abducted and beheaded an Afghan intelligence service employee [in] Ghazni province. According to reports[,] an intelligence service employee was invited to a home, then kidnapped and beheaded Sunday by the Taliban…”
An April 26, 2007 document relays a request from then Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, who wanted “assistance to support the dissemination of counterterrorism messages in response to a grisly video circulating in Pakistan showing a young boy affiliated with the Taliban beheading an adult Pakistani male.” The video in question, which was covered by the international media, shows a Taliban child (no more than 12 years old) beheading an “American spy.”
A June 23, 2007 entry cites an article by the BBC Monitoring service that reads:
Security officials today said that they have discovered the decapitated bodies of six truck drivers who supplied food items to the Afghan and foreign forces stationed in Sangin District of southern Helmand province. …Qari Yusof Ahmadi [the Taleban spokesman] confirmed the killing of five drivers, saying that they had repeatedly warned drivers to stop supplying foodstuffs and fuel to the foreign forces.
Another report by the BBC Monitoring service a few days later, on June 29, 2007, reads:
The headless body of a translator with foreign troops, kidnapped two days back, has been found in Kharwar District of central Logar Province, officials said today. … Taleban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed claimed responsibility for slaughtering the man.
The translator who was slaughtered by the Taliban had also served as a high school principal.
Another document, translated nearly two months earlier on May 2, 2007, is a Taliban letter threatening to behead a school principal “in a very near future.” It is not clear if it is the same principal who was in fact beheaded in June, but he certainly could be. In that same May 2007 letter, the Taliban expresses frustration with the Afghan people, complaining that a few suicide bombers had been dispatched in recent weeks but in each instance the bomber was surrounded by children. In a rare example of restraint, the Taliban’s bombers decided to withdraw. The Taliban warned that it would no longer spare civilian lives in such operations:
…after this warning letter we will warn you all that we have lost our patience and our tolerance from now on any civilian causality due to our suicide attacks you will be set responsible for it not we…
A May 17, 2007 report, again citing BBC Monitoring, says that the Taliban snuck into the house of a man accused of being a spy, kidnapped him, and then beheaded him. “Taleban spokesman Qari Yusof Ahmadi said the man was beheaded after founding [sic] him guilty of spying for the foreign troops.”
A July 29, 2007 intelligence report says: “A noted tribal elder was decapitated by unidentified gunmen in Yahyakhel District of the southeastern Paktika Province, a police spokesman said on Sunday.” He was “was the third tribal elder to be slain by the rebels during the last two months in Paktika, where the security situation has been on a nosedive.” The Taliban was blamed for the attack.
A December 29, 2007 intelligence report says that a dozen insurgents had managed to kidnap sixteen Afghan policemen. Sources reported that nine of the sixteen had already been killed and the remaining seven awaited execution. Of the nine who had already been executed, four were hung and two were decapitated. It is not clear how the remaining policemen were executed.
This was reported on September 27, 2009: “Insurgents under the control of Bashir Canahat, who is a Commander for Ghulam Yahya, beheaded Abdul Latif, under the impression that he worked for the government. He does not work for the government.”
(“Ghulam Yahya” is likely a reference to a top Taliban commander in western Afghanistan who was killed in a February 2009 airstrike. According to this September 2009 intelligence report, his underlings continued to target civilians for beheadings even after the Taliban issued its summer 2009 Code of Conduct, which ordered Taliban henchmen to limit civilian casualties.)
An October 30, 2009 intelligence report reads: “On 30 Oct, 2 ANP [Afghan National Police] were kidnapped; the 2 beheaded bodies of the kidnapped were left [behind].”
Julian Assange would like the world to focus on America’s supposed sins in executing the Afghan war. The documents his organization has released, however, say much more about the evil of our enemies.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.