Despite earlier reports this year that insurgent attacks in Afghanistan were on the decline, new information suggests that the ISAF, a U.S.-led coalition, has misrepresented data regarding the current Taliban conflict. Figures suggested that attacks from 2011 to 2012 had seen reductions of 7%, but the numbers were later corrected to 0%:
“The 7 percent figure had been included in a report posted on the coalition's website in late January as part of its monthly update on trends in security and violence. It was removed from the website recently without explanation.
“[C]oalition officials said they were correcting the data and would re-publish the report in coming days.”
ISAF spokesperson Jamie Graybeal couldn’t identify when the errors in data began or who discovered them, when asked about the coalition’s mistakes:
"During a quality control check, ISAF recently became aware that some data was incorrectly entered into the database that is used for tracking security-related incidents across Afghanistan.”
This report threatens to undermine months of exit strategy promotion by the current administration, who argue that a drop in insurgent attacks warrants the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. During the State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to withdraw half of the current U.S. forces, signaling the return of 30,000 soldiers. And by 2014 the U.S. is hoping to transition security responsibilities to Afghan forces, leaving the country without a U.S. military presence.
Contrary to that announcement, NATO plans emerged last week suggesting some-15,000 soldiers will remain. The briefing preceded the release of the ‘correct’ Taliban attack numbers by a few days.
“Only 5,000 of the 10,000 American troops foreseen by the plan are to be made available for the training mission. The other half will be earmarked for targeted operations against terror cells and al-Qaida camps as well as for the protection of US facilities in the country such as the embassy in Kabul. In total, the post-2014 training mission is to encompass 15,000 troops.”
Military leaders will be reluctant to commit to major withdrawals if there aren’t guarantees that the region is becoming safer, and that the Afghanistan government can handle a large departure of American forces. Until the conflicting reports are sorted out, Obama’s plan for an America-free Afghanistan faces indefinite postponement.