Though this article is long, it deservers a read. Now that I have finished reading the article I can say all Americans need to do the same. As the story shows our national objectives in Afghanistan, along with the needs of the world community, meets the hard realities on the ground. While President Nixon fumed the morning he found out the Pentagon Papers had hit the pages of the press, so too does President Obama find himself at odds with The New York Times and other members of the press. In the end, however, we were well served with the release of the background on the Vietnam War, and I know that the same will result from these documents, which were released for publication today. The reason we are in the Afghanistan is sound. It is not easy, but it is vital. That is how I felt when President Bush was in office, and that is how I feel now. I had huge differences with Bush over how he fought the war, and the lack of resources that were instead wasted on the American invasion of Iraq. But the objectives in Afghanistan have never dimmed. There are many who will use these documents and information to spin a reason for less funding for the war, or urging a hasty retreat. That would be the wrong lesson to be gained from this story. There is no less compelling reason to meet our objectives now than 24 hours before this story was published. The Taliban are no less harmless.
The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:
• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.
• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.