Just a few hours ago, whistleblower website Wikileaks released its Afghan War Diary, an “extraordinary compendium of more than 91,000 reports” apparently written by Allied soldiers and intelligence officers fighting in Afghanistan.

The Guardian in the UK is co-ordinating the release with Wikileaks and has started to pick apart the data, mostly from the UK perspective.

Australian forces appear throughout the reports, mostly under the code AUS RTF, which refers to the Australian Reconstruction Task Force located in the central Afghan province of Uruzgan.

The reports are dense reading and do not cover Special Forces operations such as our Special Air Service Regiment (SASR).

Reading through the reports concerning Australian troops, the majority are encounters with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), skirmishes with local insurgents, taking the wounded to hospitals and the occasional friendly fire incident.

Some of the more interesting Australian-related reports from the documents include:

  • A possible friendly fire incident on  July 24, 2006 where a Danish and Australian soldier were wounded after their sangar (fortified position) collapsed, the report notes “Ordnance release by coalition aircraft”.
  • A secret report that Australia approved a plan to double forces on the  April 5, 2007 (or earlier) but “does not plan to publicly announce the new deployment until April 10” (followed up by former Prime Minister John Howard’s press release on that date).
  • Several examples of unexploded ordinance with Australian markings, and one possibly serious report of Australian mortar rounds being found in a weapons cache along with Chinese rifle rounds on  November 9, 2005.

There are several cases of troops opening fire on cars approaching checkpoints, one on the July 25, 2007, which ended up with children being taken to hospital. One graphic report from May 2007 involves a harrowing suicide bomber attack on an Australian vehicle checkpoint in the Tarin Kowt district of Uruzgan, where the bomber (referred to in the report as a Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) “detonated himself 5-10m from the vehicle”.

The fallout from such a large security leak by the Allied forces will play out in dramatic and unexpected ways over the next few months, and Wikileaks has stated that there is more to come.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey