Norway’s involvement in the lengthy war in Afghanistan has been revealed in chillingly new detail, after website WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of documents related to specific combat incidents in recent years.
Military officials fear the release will further endanger the lives of Norwegian and other NATO forces on duty in the war-torn country. WikiLeaks officials, however, staunchly defended the release of the documents, saying they revealed “the truth” of what’s really going on in Afghanistan.
All told, WikiLeaks published some 92,000 secret documents revealing previously unknown details from the war in Afghanistan. The documents reportedly stem from Pentagon archives and logs from the field from 2004 to 2010, and are believed to have been sent to WikiLeaks from highly placed sources within the Pentagon.
Norwegian journalists were among those poring over the documents on Monday, searching for mentions of combat involving Norwegian soldiers, of whom around 500 remain on active duty in Afghanistan.
In one document, for example, details are revealed of the attack in which Norwegian special forces soldier Tor Arne Lau-Henriksen was killed in July 2007. WikiLeaks’ so-called “Diary from Afghanistan” reveals that a Norwegian soldier was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent just before Lau-Henriksen was killed.
It’s not clear from the log whether the soldier was Lau-Henriksen himself. The insurgent was killed by “friendly fire,” but then several NATO soldiers came under fire from “an unknown number of insurgents,” leaving one Norwegian (Lau-Henriksen) and two of the insurgents dead.
In another attack, in November 2007, the documents released to WikiLeaks describe how Norwegian soldier Sørli Jørgensen was killed and another Norwegian soldier wounded, suffering “severe head injury and amputated foot.”
Yet another attack indicates that Norwegian soldiers killed at least one civilian Afghan who refused to halt on command and was believed to be carrying a weapon, which allegedly turned out to be a flashlight. Norwegian defense officials, however, denied on Monday that Norwegian soldiers were involved in that incident on November 29, 2009.
There was no official government reaction to the WikiLeaks documents as of Monday night but Norwegian military officials expressed concern about the leaks, worrying they could compromise the safety of Norwegian officers on duty in Afghanistan.
The military also cast doubt on the accuracy of some of WikiLeaks’ documents, saying they could detect several factual errors based on their own internal reports, which have not been publicly released.
One thing was clear: Norwegian troops have been involved in far more attacks and battles than those that have been publicly reported, including two on Christmas Eve of last year and no less than six battles last July alone. Four Norwegian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb last month.
A Norwegian military spokesman confirmed Monday that the frequency of combat activity in Afghanistan has increased markedly in recent years, and probably is higher than WikiLeaks suggests. “In some periods we have (combat) incidents everyday,” Lt Col John Espen Lien told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).