Germany gave assassination list to secret US unit

By John Byrne
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 10:12 EDT
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The German government supplied a secret Pentagon task force with names of Taliban leaders that the US then could target for assassination, documents show.

Buried in the 92,000 pages of documents released by the Web site Wikileaks is evidence that show the German government abetted a secret program to kill or capture Taliban leaders. The German government has already been helping the US generate a “hit list” through NATO, but this list went a step farther, bypassing transparency and judicial process.

The once-secret list, titled the “Joint Prioritized Effects List,” was used by the Pentagon’s Task Force 373 to target, kill and capture Taliban leaders.

“Thanks to the WikiLeaks revelations, war-weary Germany now knows that German officials added names to the JPEL at least 13 times,” the German publication Der Spiegel wrote Monday. “On this list, 13 names translate into 13 potential death warrants. The Germans only mark their candidates with a C for “capture,” and not with a K for “kill.” But in fact all International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops are authorized to shoot and kill candidates on the JPEL list if, for example, they attempt to avoid capture by fleeing. In other words, although German elite troops do not use the kill option themselves, Germany does provide its tacit approval of the killing of candidates in the zone under its control in northern Afghanistan.”

Adds Der Spiegel:

To add a name to the JPEL list, the Regional Command North, which is led by a German, must first propose a candidate based on its evidence. The petition is sent to the German operations command near Potsdam outside Berlin, where it is reviewed and then sent to the Defense Ministry. If a positive decision is made, the petition is sent back to Afghanistan, where it also has to be approved by the supreme commander of the ISAF troops. It is a process that reflects the precision of German bureaucracy, and one that can have serious consequences for the people it affects in Afghanistan.

There are now six lists containing the names of targets. The JPEL list, to which the Germans contribute, is the NATO list. But Task Force 373 isn’t operating on a NATO ticket. It receives its orders directly from the Pentagon. The German government would neither confirm nor deny whether the names on the Pentagon list are derived from the NATO list.

There is evidence that the German nomination has already had drastic consequences for 13 Afghans. According to a briefing given to members of parliament, this is the number of men the Bundeswehr has placed on the NATO hit list. Senior German military officials even say that the total number of names submitted lies in the “two to three-digit range.” In 2007, the Bundeswehr named two Taliban commanders, who were assigned the file numbers 74 and 77, but Mullah Rustam and Qari Jabar were deleted from the list prior to 2009 due to a lack of evidence. Three others were added a year later, and two of them are now in custody. Four enemies of the Bundeswehr were captured in 2009, and another four in 2010.

The decision to release 92,000 pages of documents concerning the US war in Afghanistan has sparked a vitriolic response from those who believe the information should be kept secret.

Marc Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter, claimed in a Washington Post op-ed Monday that because Wikileaks has published classified information, they should be considered in violation of the espionage act and taken down using “military assets,” even if that means kidnapping founder Julian Assange from an undisclosed location within the European Union — which would be a violation of international and domestic laws.

On Sunday, the White House denounced the massive leak of secret military files that also describe how Pakistan’s spy service aids the Afghan insurgency.

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 publish reports 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.”

Describing the talks as “secret strategy sessions,” the newspaper said they “organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.”

White House National Security Advisor James Jones issued a statement to reporters shortly before the documents were posted online, saying the leaks were “irresponsible” but would not impact US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With AFP.

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