WikiLeaks war logs show unreported plight of contractors

The decapitation of an Afghan civilian is one of many previously unreported instances of violence in the documents

By Justin Elliott
July 26, 2010 10:40PM (UTC)
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U.S. soldiers escort a wounded foreign contractor at a USAID compound in Kunduz, north of Kabul, Afghanista, Friday, July 2, 2010 after it was stormed by militants wearing suicide vests. Six suicide bombers attacked the compound Friday in northern Afghanistan, killing at least four people and wounding several others, officials said. (AP Photo) (Anonymous)

The WikiLeaks war logs show in sometimes gruesome detail how Afghan contractors working for the Defense Department have borne much of the worst violence of the nine-year war.

Salon recently reported that 260 private security contractors -- virtually all of them Afghan -- were killed in action in a 10-month period. But the WikiLeaks war logs document previously unreported violence against other types of contractors too -- those who do construction and drive trucks and serve food and perform all the other work that makes the war possible.


In September 2006, in a remote area northeast of Kandahar, troops found a decapitated body on the side of the road, with the knife "presumed to be used to decapitate him ... still there," along with a letter. "The letter states that he was a contractor working for the US at Nawa and that he was murdered because he was helping the US," the log says. The log ends with "nothing further to report."

The gruesome incident was never publicly reported by the Pentagon and thus did not appear in the media, according to a Nexis search.

Here's another incident from 2008  -- one of dozens that was never reported. This one occurred in western Afghanistan and two contractors had their legs blown off:


At 0810 local time on 24 Sep, an vehicle was struck by an IED, 3 [civilian contractors] were injured during the incident, 2 have lost their legs and remain in a critical condition in Herat hospital and 1 is in stable condition.

The following, from January 2008, is a typical account of a deadly attack on a contractor convoy carrying essential goods -- in this case a wheat shipment:

Originally 7 Compass wheat seed trucks and at least 5 security vehicles left Herat Yesterday. Out of the original convoy, 4 trucks encountered mechanical difficulty and had to stop in Deh TUT for repairs. One security vehicle stayed behind as repairs were undertaken. The three other wheat trucks made it through to Kandahar Air Field successfully. The 4 Trucks and 1 security vehicle were then repaired and departed deh TUT. At approximately 212230LJAN08 the convoy was ambushed and subsequently captured. Insugents fired 82MM mortar, rocket-propelled grenade, PK machine gun, and SAF [submachine gun] at security. Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police met with convoy approx 2 hours later and escorted them to Delaram. At last report Battle damage assessment was 3 Wounded local national, 1 Killed local national, 4x grain vehicles captured, 1 secondary escort vehicle.

There are dozens more  stories just like this in the WikiLeaks documents. But there's no indication that the Pentagon cares much -- the DOD told Salon this month that it does not even track the names of slain contractors.

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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Afghanistan Afghanistan War Logs War Room Wikileaks