WASHINGTON – Operatives inside Afghanistan and Pakistan who have worked for the United States against the Taliban or al-Qaida may be at risk following the disclosure of thousands of once-secret U.S. military documents, former and current officials said.

As the Obama administration scrambles to repair any political damage to the war effort in Congress and among the American public by the WikiLeaks revelations, there are also growing concerns that some U.S. allies abroad may ask whether they can trust America to keep secrets, officials said.

Speaking in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he was concerned about the massive leak of sensitive documents about the Afghanistan war, but that the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the debate.

The president spoke following a meeting with House and Senate leaders of both parties.

In Baghdad, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was “appalled” by the leak. He said “there is a real potential threat there to put American lives at risk.”

The Army is leading the Pentagon’s inquiry into the source of the leak. A federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Justice Department is assisting in the investigation.

Col. Dave Lapan said the Army criminal probe launched Tuesday is aimed at finding the source of secret documents published Sunday by WikiLeaks, an online site. The Army’s criminal investigative division led the inquiry into Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence specialist charged with leaking other information to WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks material, which ranges from files documenting Afghan civilian deaths to evidence of U.S.-Pakistani distrust, could reinforce war opponents in Congress who aim to rein in the war effort. But the leaks did not halt passage of a $60 billion war funding bill.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, meanwhile, complained that too much was being made of the documents. Referring to files that detailed American suspicions that some Pakistani intelligence officials were aiding insurgents, Morrell insisted those concerns have abated in recent years and the relationship has improved.

The disclosures, he said, are “clearly out of step with where this relationship is now, and has been heading for some time.”

Morrell was interviewed on CBS’s “The Early Show.”

Even as the administration dismissed the WikiLeaks material as mostly outdated, U.S. military and intelligence analysts were caught up in a speed-reading battle to limit the damage contained in the files now scattered across the Internet.

The officials are concerned about the impact on the military’s human intelligence network built up in the past eight years inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such figures range from Afghan village elders who have worked behind the scenes with U.S. troops to militants working as double agents.

WikiLeaks said it has behaved responsibly, even withholding some 15,000 records that are believed to include names of specific Afghans or Pakistanis who helped U.S. troops on the ground.

But former CIA Director Michael Hayden denounced the leak Monday as a gift to America’s enemies.

Hayden predicted the Taliban would take anything that described a U.S. strike and the intelligence behind it “and figure out who was in the room when that particular operation, say in 2008, was planned, and in whose home.” Then the militants would probably punish the traitor who’d worked with the Americans, he said.

Another casualty of the disclosures may be American efforts to forge cooperation with Pakistan’s secretive intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

Multiple U.S. military cables posted by WikiLeaks complain about ISI complicity with the Taliban. And they also tell the Pakistanis “how much we know about them,” said Robert Riegle, a former senior intelligence officer.

“You’re not going to see any cooperation,” he said. “People are going to freeze.”

The raw data released Sunday may also prove useful in a wider way to the intelligence services of countries like China and Russia.

“If I’m head of the Russian intelligence, I’m getting my best English speakers and saying: ‘Read every document, and I want you to tell me, how good are these guys? What are their approaches, their strengths, their weaknesses and their blind spots?”‘ Hayden said.