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Mistake with ISAF attack statistics

February 27, 2013

By Tim Foxley

Afghan map outline

Summary:  ISAF drop the ball on statistics – Taliban attacks not down over 2012

From my own limited encouters in Kabul, statistics are everything in the ISAF headquarters.  Finding the “right” stats to indicate progress must be challenging.

Just came across this in the Daily Telegraph:

Coalition headquarters in Kabul admitted that attacks did not fall by seven per cent over the course of 2012 as originally reported, but remained at the same levels.

The mistake was caused by staff failing to add figures from the Afghan security forces, a spokesman said.

The slip will embarrass commanders and politicians who have repeatedly insisted there was a fall in attacks last year as proof that the 11-year-old campaign was succeeding and security was improving as troops withdraw ahead of 2014.

“This was a record-keeping error that we recognised and have now corrected,” a statement said.

“Specifically, in the past we have reported that the year-over-year change in enemy-initiated attacks (EIA) from 2011 to 2012 had decreased by seven per cent.

I can’t read too much into it, given the superficial level of information here, but I would have thought that the attacks against the Afghan armed forces would have accounted for more than  a 7% difference in totals – I thought they were now at the forefront in 80% plus of all military operations in the country.  Also, we should perhaps  allow for the idea that, if ISAF is no longer launching major ground operations, shouldn’t we automaticallly expect a drop in incidents – we’ve seen a major drop in ISAF casualties, afterall?

But ISAF, which pride themselves on their stats and will be embarrased by this slip, will hopefully be aware that the more they have to rely upon Afghan army and police units reporting information, the more they will need to allow for flaws in collection and presentation.  As ISAF scales down, the intelligence and information picture will dry up.


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