The story du jour—and for probably quite a few more jours—is the Wikileaks dump of classified information on the war in Afghanistan.
Revealing previously classified information about ongoing wars has become a sort of cottage industry, with the word “classified” taking on lesser and lesser meaning as time goes on. This is mostly because there are virtually no consequences for the perpetrators of such leaks, and no shortage of outlets willing to disseminate them, encouraged by the United States’ lack of an Official Secrets Act such as is the law in Britain (I’ve already written extensively on issues related to the question of whether this country should pass a similar statute).
What do the most recent leaks actually reveal? Not much (see also this). Anyone who’s been paying attention to the Afghan situation already knows that the government of Pakistan and especially its military intelligence arm has ties to the Taliban, and that civilians have been killed in this war, which are the main facts revealed by the present leaks.
Just about everyone paying attention also knows that a central issue is that the goal of our continued presence in Afghanistan has not been clearly defined. The original reasons we went there were related to the 9/11 attacks and fact that their masterminds were being sheltered by its then-rulers, the Taliban. Now the whereabouts of many of the former are unknown, and the Taliban are not officially in charge, although they’re still highly influential and perpetually resurgent. Our commitment there—by both the Bush administration (after the initial push), and the Obama administration today—has been what I could crudely call half-assed, and the definition of what success would actually look like is murky.
Are we still nation-building there? Are we still looking for the elusive (and perhaps deceased?) Bin Laden, and won’t leave till we get him? Is Pakistan an ally in name only? These are the questions that need to be asked, and answered, posthaste, ones that I’m afraid will not be answered by this administration, which used the Afghan War as a campaign weapon to demonstrate macho hawkishness in the “right” war, and to bludgeon Bush for fighting the “wrong” one.