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Leaked Afghan files 'put civilians at risk'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 30 July 2010

As revalations from the wikileaks documents gather pace Daniel Yates, a former British military intelligence officer, asks does the information put lives of Afghan civilians, and informants, at risk?

US soldiers on patrol near Kandahar are followed by civilians (credit: Reuters)

As more detail of the information contained in the ‘Afghan war logs’ emerges it appears clear to me that, despite his protests otherwise, Julian Assange has seriously endangered the lives of Afghan civilians.
The logs contain detailed personal information regarding Afghan civilians who have approached NATO soldiers with information. I know how hard that is to do. 

In my time with the Intelligence Corps I was often tasked to speak to such people; ‘casual contacts’ in the jargon.   First contact is made in public, in the open, the informant is often scared and nervous; you have to work hard to build trust and to give reassurance regarding safety and security. 
The leaking of these documents destroys that trust and those promises of security.

Here is a link on the subject
-Wikileaks: damage is done says human right group
- Afghan leak: Wikileak's Julien Assange tells all

It is inevitable that the Taliban will now seek violent retribution on those who have co-operated with NATO.  Their families and tribes will also be in danger.  That danger should not be underestimated. 

During my time in Iraq it was commonplace for bodies to be recovered bearing the marks of torture; joints mutilated by electric drills, eyes gouged and tongues pulled out.  Invariably the accusation was that the deceased had been a British informant. 

Perhaps the worst of it is that many of those exposed will not even be aware of it.   A US soldier shakes hands with a villager (credit: Getty)
The war in Afghanistan is one among the people and, as General McChrystal has recognised, protecting the people is key to winning the war. To do this NATO needs good intelligence. 

The majority of that useable intelligence comes from the Afghan people, casual contacts and others who are in a position to supply regular, accurate and quantifiable information.  That sort of information is the sort that NATO needs to ensure that only the Taliban are targeted, and that deadly mistakes do not occur. 

Afghanistan's success lies in the civilian population
- click here for the article by Colonel Richard Kemp

The people who provide that sort of information often initially come forward as the type of casual contact exposed by Wiki-Leaks.  Indeed some of those named may know be regularly providing information to NATO.  

It is hard to imagine that many people will judge it sensible to speak to NATO troops in the future.  That can only prolong the suffering of the Afghan people

Daniel Yates is a former member of the Intelligence Corps who completed operational tours of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq where he was involved in the collection and production of intelligence from human intelligence sources.

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