As the war in Afghanistan is winding down, and the US led ISAF is trying to get the hell out of the vast mountainous contry another war is gaining ground: a war about metrics.
For more than a decade ISAF’s single most important statistical index for measuring progress in the fight to overcome the Taliban insurgency has been the number of the so called “enemy-initiated attacks” (EIAs). Now suddenly over the course of the last week military officials decided to get over with all that fiddly number crunching. It started last week, when ISAF admitted that previously reported numbers seemingly showing a decline of EIAs were false due to a “clerical error.”
Just as it is publicly admitted that the numbers don’t add up to support the success-story about the troop surge initiated in 2009 by the Obama-administration (see chart) ISAF’s spokesperson Jamie Graybeal tells us not to take the numbers-issue all that seriously. He came up with the ISAF’s version of what one could call “spacial mismatch”-hypothesis, saying that because 80 percent of the EIAs have taken place in areas where less than 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million people live the figures are simply not worth to look at; well, no suprise he didn’t present any time series of that data to support his argument.
Afghanistan war statistics: [partly wrong] ISAF’s data of enemey-initiated attacks (2008-12)
Yesterday, after assessing the situation, Graybeal finally concluded that because of the ongoing handover to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) ISAF has “determined that [its] databases will become increasingly inaccurate in reflecting the entirety of enemy initiated attacks.” Therefore ISAF decided from now on to withhold any recorded data about EIAs from publication—touché! out of mind out of sight.
Of course there’s an onging debate about how to estimate progress (if any) of the Operation Enduring Freedom (fka Infinite Justice) from the outset of the war, and one simple figure alone surely doesn’t adequately represent the bigger picture (read here). But this move by ISAF seems to be yet another sign of unacknowledged failure of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.