The White House denounced a massive leak of secret military files early Monday that allegedly describe how Pakistan's spy service aids the Afghan insurgency, but said the information was no surprise.
In all, some 92,000 documents were released by the web whistleblower Wikileaks, containing previously untold details of the Afghan war through Pentagon files and field reports spanning from 2004 to 2010.
According to the New York Times, one of the first three media outlets to review and report on the leaks, they "suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban."
Britain's Guardian newspaper said the files, many of which detail growing numbers of civilians dying at the hands of international forces as well as the Taliban, painted "a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan."
The White House issued its condemnation shortly before the leaks were posted online, saying the information could endanger U.S. lives, but also pointing to the administration's long-held doubts about links between Pakistan intelligence agents and Afghan insurgents.
"The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security," said White House National Security Advisor James Jones.
"These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people."
The White House also released a series of remarks made in the past by top officials expressing their concern about links between Pakistan spy services and militants in Afghanistan.
Among them was one from Defense Secretary Robert Gates dated March 31, 2009: "The ISI's contacts with [extremist groups] are a real concern to us, and we have made these concerns known directly to the Pakistanis," referring to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
The New York Times said it, along with the Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel, had received the leaked material several weeks ago from Wikileaks, a secretive web organization that often publishes classified material.
The source of leak was unknown.
"Secret strategy sessions"
The last person suspected of providing classified material to the outlet is an American soldier who has been charged with two counts of misconduct for allegedly providing video footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter strike in Iraq in which around a dozen people were gunned down in broad daylight.
Describing "secret strategy sessions," the Times said Pakistan spy services "organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders."
The Times added that "much of the information -- raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan -- cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants."
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States on Sunday denounced the leak of secret files on the Afghan war and insisted his nation was fully committed to fighting Islamic insurgents.
Ambassador Husain Haqqani called the release of the file "irresponsible," saying it consisted of "unprocessed" reports from the field.
"The documents circulated by Wikileaks do not reflect the current on ground realities," Haqqani said in a statement.
"The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are strategic partners and are jointly endeavoring to defeat al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies militarily and politically," he said.
In one of the documents, Pakistan's former ISI spy chief Hamid Gul is described at a January 2009 meeting with a group of insurgents following the death by CIA drone attack of a leader of al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan named Zamarai, also known as Osama al-Kini.
"The meeting attendees were saddened by the news of Zamarai's death and discussed plans to complete Zamarai's last mission by facilitating the movement of a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device from Pakistan to Afghanistan through the Khan Pass," it said.
The Times noted that it was unclear whether the attack ever took place, and said that despite the official end of Gul's tenure at the ISI in 1989, "General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities."
He pointed out that President Barack Obama on Dec. 1, 2009 announced a new strategy that boosted resources for Afghanistan, and put increased focus on al-Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan.
"This shift in strategy addressed challenges in Afghanistan that were the subject of an exhaustive policy review last fall," Jones said.
A U.S. official who asked not to be named added: "I don't think anyone who follows this issue will find it surprising that there are concerns about ISI and safe havens in Pakistan.
"Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the president ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy," the official said, adding: "Wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes U.S. policy in Afghanistan."