Sunday's release of a six-year archive of classified military documents detailing the war in Afghanistan has raised a number of questions about the conflict, not least of which is the most difficult one to answer: How is it going?
In various ways the 92,000 pages of military documents paint a grim picture of the United States military and its allies. To help provide some context to this rich trove of information we've invited Graeme Smith, a Globe and Mail reporter currently based in South Asia, to answer reader questions.
So far, the most surprising thing has been the 2007 flag meeting in Chaman between Canadian, Afghan, and Pakistani officials. I mentioned it at the bottom of today's story. The Canadians sat down for tea and lunch with their Pakistani hosts, enjoyed some light musical entertainment, and then the Pakistanis said, by the way, your foreign troops went into Pakistan yesterday and killed one of our soldiers. That report made me sit up straight. Must have been an interesting meeting. Graeme Smith
Mr. Smith served as The Globe and Mail's lead correspondent in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2009, and is now writing a book about Kandahar. Last year he won an Emmy award for his multimedia series, " Talking to the Taliban."
The discussion has now concluded, below is a transcript of the chat. BlackBerry and iPhone users can still click here to view a mobile-friendly version.
Your questions on the leaked Afghanistan war documents
11:46 Hello, I'm Shane Dingman, one of the online editors here at The Globe and Mail. Graeme will be joining us in a few minutes, but if you want to start posting your questions, please enter them into the box below.
11:55 Graeme Smith: Thanks for organizing this, Shane. What's interesting about these Wikileaks documents is they've started something akin to a collective gold rush. Everybody is panning for gold in that big stream of information. I'm curious to see if any of our readers have discovered nuggets - forgive me - that we've missed.
11:57 Shane Dingman: Glad to have you Graeme, I thought I'd start with a question one of our readers left.
Doug Nesbitt asked: Are the leaked documents limited to American military actions, or will we learn more about Canadian military actions? Even if it is just American military actions, might we learn about how often Canadian ground forces rely upon American air power?
11:59 Graeme Smith: Hi Doug. The documents appear to contain mostly U.S. military intelligence, but their system carries a lot of classified traffic about Canadian actions. So there are many, many reports generated by "TFK" for instance: that's Task Force Kandahar, the Canadian headquarters in Kandahar.
11:59 [Comment From Adrienne Adrienne: ]/b> Hi, my question is regarding the "leaked friendly-fire account" reported on here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-disputes-leaked-friendly-fire-account/article1652594/
12:01 Shane Dingman: Adrienne actually had a little more, she also wants to know: What I want to know is, do we have any hope of discovering the truth in a situation like that where the government simply claims it's not true? Other than denials, is the government under any obligation to investigate and explain the situation to Canadians, and what can be done by the average person to ensure that it is? I'm also curious if you think this will generate any anti-American sentiment, and ultimately if it is discovered there was a cover up, who could even be held accountable?
12:01 Graeme Smith: Hi Adrienne. I'll be honest, I don't see any huge controversy in the leaked version of the first days of Operation Medusa in Sept. 2006. The short bulletin in the Wikileaks documents doesn't do much to contradict the vast body of information and reporting by my colleagues about that day - notably Globe and Mail reporters Les Perreaux and Christie Blatchford, who have both looked into those events in detail.
12:03 Graeme Smith: Yeah, I think it's pretty clear that our four soldiers were killed by enemy fire on Sept. 3, 2006. There are a lot of mysteries about what happened in Kandahar during those years, but I don't think this is one of them.
12:04 Shane Dingman: Let's talk for a moment about your impressions as you looked through the 'gold rush' of documents? There has been a good deal of discussion about whether there were any 'smoking guns' in the trove of information, your story today talked a lot about the infighting among the allies...