WASHINGTON — Despite assurances from the White House that there is nothing new in the 90,000 classified documents on Afghanistan released Monday by the website WikiLeaks, leaders in Congress say they plan to investigate U.S. strategy in the region.
“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry said in a tersely-worded statement. “Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”
WikiLeaks’ data covers from 2004 to 2009, around the time that President Obama revised the nation’s Afghanistan strategy. Rep. Tim Walz, a retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard, said it’s too soon now to tell if that new strategy was working well or needed revision.
“I still believe we have more work to do in defining our goals, determining whether they are achievable and laying out a concrete plan for when and how we will eventually end our involvement in the region,” Walz said. “As we move forward, I will continue to ask the tough questions and hold this administration accountable. The brave men and women who serve our country in uniform deserve nothing less.”
Perhaps the harshest reality exposed by the documents — the authenticity of which have not been challenged by the White House or Pentagon — is that forces on the ground suspect that Pakistan’s intelligence agency is working in some capacity with the Taliban in Afghanistan to help them fight U.S. troops.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the documents didn’t break any news in the White House, which obviously has full access to classified documents and war strategy.
“Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t think that what is being reported hasn’t in many ways been publicly discussed either by you all or by representatives of the U.S. government for quite some time,” White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday. “We have certainly known about safe havens in Pakistan; we have been concerned about civilian casualties for quite some time — and on both of those aspects we’ve taken steps to make improvements.”
“I think just the last time Gen. Petreaus testified in front of the Senate there was a fairly robust discussion about the historical relationships that have been had between the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence services,” Gibbs continued.
The reports also come as no surprise in Kabul, where the Pakistan-Taliban connection has been long-suspected, but Kerry’s statement and subsequent comments from other lawmakers suggest it comes as some shock to several of those in Congress who recently green-lighted a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan. The merits of that aid package are now being questioned.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said it’s no surprise Pakistan is “hedging its bets,” adding that the Obama administration’s proposed drawdown of U.S. troops set to begin next July was actually contributing to that decision.
“I believe you cannot put an arbitrary deadline in Afghanistan — if you do you see the effects of that immediately,” Pawlenty said at a breakfast with national reporters on Monday.
“You see President Karzai begin hedging his bets about whether the United States is going to be there or not… You arguably start to see Pakistan start hedging their bets about what a post-American Afghanistan might look like in the event that we were to pull out either arbitrarily or summarily in the near or intermediate future,” Pawlenty continued.
“So this idea that we’re going to set an arbitrary deadline or an infelxible deadline about when we’re going to be there has all this ripple effect on the ground,” Pawlenty said, adding that the U.S. ought to see the war through until its objectives are met.