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It's official! "No progress" in Afghanistan

Remember all the politicians and those military assuring us that there has been "progress" - whatever that actually means! - in Afghanistan.   There will have been many who would have been re-assured by that information and seen the withdrawal of NATO forces, at the very least, partly justified.   Good PR or a genuine mistake? - when we read, today, that there hasn't, in fact, been "progress" in Afghanistan at all.   If anything, to the contrary!

"American officials, when looking to quickly illustrate progress in Afghanistan, have in the past few months highlighted a 7 percent drop last year in what they call “enemy-initiated attacks.” Fewer attacks, the reasoning went, meant Afghans were safer and the Taliban were weaker.

The problem: There was no decline. The numbers were wrong.

The American-led NATO coalition said Tuesday that it had discovered a clerical error in its reporting and that the number of enemy-initiated attacks — defined as attacks with guns, mortars, rockets or improvised explosive devices — remained constant from 2011 to 2012.

Though the mistake may be embarrassing, it is not likely to greatly change perspectives about how the war is going. That is in part because, outside of official circles, few analysts have seen the violence statistic as good news.

In fact, the same measure, when looked at over a wider sample of years, actually depicts a drastic growth in violence since 2009, when American commanders first began inching toward a counterinsurgency strategy that focused on reducing violence rather than solely on battling militants.

Previous coalition reports, which use bar graphs to plot the level of enemy-initiated attacks each month instead of specific figures, showed about 2,000 attacks in July 2009, for instance. That was before the Obama administration deployed tens of thousands of fresh troops in a bid to stabilize Afghanistan.

A year later, with all of the American surge forces in Afghanistan, the number of monthly attacks had roughly doubled, to about 4,000.

Three years later, in July 2012, enemy-initiated attacks stood just above 3,000 — a decline, to be sure, but still far higher than the number of attacks before the surge and the strategic shift toward protecting Afghans.

The coalition has sought to overcome the problematic numbers by saying that 80 percent of the enemy-initiated attacks have taken place in areas where less than 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million people live. But with no public comparative data for years past, it is not clear whether that represents a change or just a longstanding feature of the war."

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