WikiLeaks and Afghanistan: The Fallout Continues

US soldiers patrol in the Dand district of Kandahar Province on July 26, 2010, a day after leaked documents laid bare the civilian toll of the US-led war. (Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States war effort in Afghanistan was roiled over the weekend by the WikiLeaks release of 75,000 official military documents pertaining to the war, which add up to a far more dire portrait than the Obama and Bush administrations had ever made public.

A key aspect of the leaked documents is that they point repeatedly to Pakistan's spy service, the ISI, as a major collaborator with the Afghan Taliban. 

"If all of the media stories to date have not been clear enough, the WikiLeaks documents describing in great detail how active Pakistan's ISI has been in supporting and even managing the Afghan Taliban leave little room for doubt—the United States is basically at war in Afghanistan with elements of the Pakistan government," noted Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl. "Unless this is changed and governance within Afghanistan improves significantly, there is no chance for anything resembling success in Afghanistan, and American public support for the war will collapse."

"WikiLeaks may not be the Pentagon Papers," Metzl continued, "but the current situation of a military holding on in a far-away war and a disillusioned American public no longer willing to shoulder the burden is starting to look eerily familiar."

Meanwhile, Asia Society Director of Policy Studies Suzanne DiMaggio zeroed in on another aspect of the WikiLeaks documents—allegations that "the Iranian government is directly supporting Taliban insurgents and warlords allied to al Qaeda in Afghanistan through the provision of money, arms, training and safe haven."

While cautioning that the leaked documents are based on uncorroborated raw data from suspect sources, DiMaggio went on to say that "the US has been accusing Iran for some years now of being a source for both materiel and trained fighters for Taliban elements in Afghanistan, though it is unclear whether these activities are government-sponsored or being carried out by groups that are freelancing beyond Tehran's control. The likely scenario is that Iran is playing all sides in Afghanistan as it seeks to cultivate a strong relationship with the Afghan government while trying to hinder U.S. military operations in the region.

"As the Obama administration begins some kind of troop drawdown in Afghanistan in the coming year, it will need to find ways to keep Iran's growing involvement and influence in the country in check. The best way ... would be to begin a strategic dialogue with Tehran that is based on dealing with common threats to security in Afghanistan, including terrorism, narcotics, organized crime, and refugees."

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Jeff Tompkins is New York Content Manager at Asia Society.