Taliban Says It Will Target Names Exposed by WikiLeaks

An Afghan farmer talks to U.S. Marines on the outskirts of Marja, Afghanistan, earlier this year. Christophe Simon / AFP-Getty Images

The U.S. military has already accused WikiLeaks of having "the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family" on its hands after leaking 92,000 classified documents. The Taliban has now confirmed it is poring through the documents, and intends to hunt down and punish any suspected spies named.

Britain's Channel 4 News interviewed a Taliban spokesperson named Zabihullah Mujahid by telephone. "We are studying the report," he said, referring to the documents, available online, some containing the names, tribes, and family information of Afghan informants.

"We knew about the spies and people who collaborate with U.S. forces," he continued. "We will investigate through our own secret service whether the people mentioned are really spies working for the U.S. If they are U.S. spies, then we know how to punish them."

After the Taliban, Back to Normal: Click on image to view photos James Reeve

The Taliban has recently pursued a policy of intimidating those who cooperate with the NATO forces in an attempt to undermine efforts at governance. Many local officials have been killed, and most have been threatened. The militant group is known to execute informants, reports Channel 4, by hanging, beheading, and shooting. It has even, on one recent occasion, strapped "two alleged traitors to explosives before detonating them in public."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen condemned WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange yesterday. "Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing," Mullen said, according to Reuters. "But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."

Gates told reporters that trust between the Afghan people and the U.S. military had been breached. "I spent most of my life in the intelligence business, where the sacrosanct principle is protecting your sources," he said. "It seems to me that, as a result of this massive breach of security, we have considerable repair work to do in terms of reassuring people and rebuilding trust, because they clearly—people are going to feel at risk."

Many media organizations have avoided linking to the WikiLeaks site and have redacted information in their reports. But Mujahid told Channel 4 that the Taliban had begun investigating the leaked information after being alerted by news stories.