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LONDON (AP) — The release of some 91,000 secret U.S. military documents on the Afghanistan war is just the beginning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised Monday, adding that he still has thousands more Afghan files to post online.
The White House, Britain and Pakistan have all condemned the online whistle-blowing group's release Sunday of the classified documents, one of the largest unauthorized disclosures in military history. The Afghan government in Kabul said it was "shocked" at the release but insisted most of the information was not new.
The documents cover some known aspects of the troubled nine-year conflict: U.S. special operations forces have targeted militants without trial, Afghans have been killed by accident, and U.S. officials have been infuriated by alleged Pakistani intelligence cooperation with the very insurgent groups bent on killing Americans.
Still, they also included unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings and covert operations against Taliban figures.
Assange told reporters in London that what's been reported so far on the leaked documents has "only scratched the surface" and said some 15,000 files on Afghanistan are still being vetted by his organization.
He said he believed that "thousands" of U.S. attacks in Afghanistan could be investigated for evidence of war crimes, although he acknowledged that such claims would have to be tested in court.
"It is up to a court to decide really if something in the end is a crime," he said.
Assange pointed in particular to a deadly missile strike ordered by Taskforce 373, a unit allegedly charged with hunting down and killing senior Taliban targets. He said there was also evidence of cover-ups when civilians were killed, including what he called a suspiciously high number of casualties that U.S. forces attributed to ricochet wounds.
White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release of the documents "put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk." In a statement, he took pains to point out that the documents describe a period from January 2004 to December 2009, mostly during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Jones noted that time period was before President Obama announced a new strategy.
Pakistan's Ambassador Husain Haqqani agreed, saying the documents "do not reflect the current on-ground realities," in which his country and Washington are "jointly endeavoring to defeat al-Qaida and its Taliban allies."
The U.S. and Pakistan assigned teams of analysts to read the records online to assess whether sources or locations were at risk.
Pakistan's powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, said Monday that the accusations it had close connections to Taliban militants were malicious and unsubstantiated.
A senior ISI official said they were from unverified raw intelligence reports and were meant to impugn the reputation of the spy agency. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the agency's policy.
Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI who is mentioned many times in the documents, also denied allegations that he'd worked with the insurgents.
Dozier reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.