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For Afghans, WikiLeaks shows 'real face' of Pakistan

By Yuka Tachibana, NBC News Producer

KABUL – Afghan President Hamid Karzai was "surprised and shocked at the huge amount" of secret U.S. military documents on the Afghanistan war published on WikiLeaks earlier this week, according to his spokesman Waheed Omar.

But he wasn’t shocked by the information that was revealed in the leaked documents.

"The president was not surprised at the substance of the documents. I don’t think that anyone was surprised," said Omar. "Most of what was leaked are things that we have been talking about for years. Things like: civilian casualties, the protection of Afghan people, the role of a certain intelligence agency, and the destabilizing activities here in Afghanistan."

The "certain intelligence agency" he was referring to is Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

The 91,000 documents published by WikiLeaks appear to show, among other things, that agents for Pakistan’s ISI have been working in close collaboration with the Taliban for years. The allegations are particularly provocative since Pakistan is supposed to be a close U.S. ally in the war on terror and is also a recipient of billions of dollars of U.S. aid.

But, the response from Karzai and the rest of Kabul’s chattering political class to the WikiLeaks story seemed to reveal more about their long-term biases against their nuclear neighbor and rival Pakistan than any concerns over intelligence leaks or security. Kabul has long accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of supporting Taliban insurgents.

Sukria Barakzai, an independent member of the Afghan parliament, said that many Afghans feel vindicated by what was revealed in the documents. 

"People are glad, not for the fact that there have been more civilian casualties in this war. They are glad that proper documents show the real face of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan," said Barakzai. "We have been suffering from their double policy – on the one hand being a good partner, and supporting the war on terror, and the other side supporting terrorists back on their safe land."

Haroun Mir, a political analyst and a candidate in upcoming parliamentary elections, said that the documents not only shed light on Pakistan’s role, but they also pointed out that it’s time the U.S. reviewed its own relationship with Pakistan.

"Pakistan’s support of the Taliban is not a secret… But despite knowing, and despite the evidence, this U.S. administration is not acting against Pakistan? This is a big question in Afghanistan. "

Even the Taliban had their say about the leaked documents. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told NBC News, "It’s good for people to know about the inhumane killing of civilians, and that these documents reveal that there have been more acts of ruthless killings of civilians by the international/U.S. forces than originally reported."

Mujahid added that the Taliban is still studying the documents very closely – which may not be good news for Afghan informants for the U.S. military whose lives may now be in danger as a result of the document dump.

Karzai condemned the release of information that could endanger the lives of Afghan informants during a news conference on Thursday, calling it "extremely irresponsible and shocking."

"Because whether those individuals acted legitimately or illegitimately, by providing information to NATO forces, they are lives. And the lives are in danger now," he said.

The Pentagon has also said that informants whose names appear in the documents have reason to fear for their lives.

Kabulis, who are not involved in day-to-day politics, didn’t have the same reaction.

Engela Yalda, a student studying politics at the University of Kabul, looked puzzled when asked about the secret documents posted on WikiLeaks

"WikiLeaks…?" she asked. "I have never heard of WikiLeak…I have access to the Internet, but it’s exam time now and I only follow very important news. Can you spell that for me please?" 

Ditto from a shopkeeper and a few other students – none of them were aware of the military leaks.

NBC News’ Iqbal Sapand contributed to this report.