Informants whose names appear in the documents posted on the whistleblower site WikiLeaks have reason to fear for their lives, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.
At least one person who named appeared in the documents has already complained to US officials in Afghanistan, said Colonel David Lapan.
“Anyone whose name appears in those documents is potentially at risk,” he said.
“It could compromise their position, it could be a threat on their life, and it could have an impact on their future conduct,” Lapan said, referring to fears the massive leak could dry up intelligence sources.
The more than 90,000 classified military files span a period from 2004 to 2009 as the US and NATO war effort in Afghanistan ran into a rising Taliban insurgency.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said earlier this week that the documents were checked for named informants and that 15,000 such documents had been held back.
But the British newspaper The Times reported that after just two hours of combing through the documents it was able to find the names of dozens of Afghans said to have provided detailed intelligence to US forces.
The Times cited one 2008 document that included a detailed interview with a Taliban fighter considering defection.
The man, who names local Taliban commanders and talks about other potential defectors, is identified by name, along with his father’s name and village.
In another case from 2007, a senior official accuses named figures in the Afghan government of corruption.
“The leaks certainly have put in real risk and danger the lives and integrity of many Afghans,” a senior official at the Afghan foreign ministry, who declined to be named told The Times.
“The US is both morally and legally responsible for any harm that the leaks might cause to the individuals, particularly those who have been named. It will further limit the US/international access to the uncensored views of Afghans,” the Afghan official told the newspaper.
Major General John Campbell, head of the 101 Airborne Division and in charge of a key regional command in eastern Afghanistan, said that the leaks have not resulted in any changes in military operations.
Campbell, speaking to reporters via satellite from Afghanistan, said that most of the information he has seen from the leaks was “not new news.”
However, he feared that any named informants would be reluctant to further collaborate with coalition forces.
“I can see that there will be a detriment down the road,” said Campbell.