Coalition claim of 7% drop in Taliban attacks blamed on clerical errors; Pentagon says there was no decline
WASHINGTON — The American-led military coalition in Afghanistan backed off Tuesday from its claim that Taliban attacks dropped off in 2012, tacitly acknowledging a hole in its widely repeated argument that violence is easing and that the insurgency is in steep decline.
In response to Associated Press inquiries about its latest series of statistics on security in Afghanistan, the coalition command in Kabul said it had erred in reporting a 7 percent decline in attacks. In fact there was no decline at all, officials said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is among the senior officials who had publicly repeated the assertion of an encouraging drop-off in Taliban attacks last year, was disturbed to learn of the error, said his spokesman, George Little.
“This particular set of metrics doesn't tell the full story of progress against the Taliban, of course, but it's unhelpful to have inaccurate information in our systems,” Little said.
A coalition spokesman, Jamie Graybeal, attributed the miscounting to clerical errors and said the problem does not change officials' basic assessment of the war, which they say is on a positive track as American and allied forces withdraw.
The 7 percent figure had been included in a report posted on the website of the coalition, the International Security Assistance Force, on Jan. 22 as part of its monthly update on trends in security and violence. It was removed from the website recently without explanation. After the AP asked last week about the missing report, coalition officials said they were correcting the data and would republish the report. As of Tuesday afternoon it had not reappeared.
It was not clear whether or how the Pentagon might correct a separate report — its semi-annual report to Congress on security progress in Afghanistan, which used some of the same Taliban-attack statistics. The report was sent to Congress in December.
“We'll look at any adjustments that need to be made” to that report, Little said.
U.S. and allied officials have often cited declining violence as a sign that the Taliban have been degraded and that Afghan forces are in position to take the lead security role across the country when the last U.S. combat troops leave Dec. 31, 2014.
In mid-December, Panetta said “violence is down” for 2012 and Afghan forces “have gotten much better at providing security” in areas where they have taken the lead. He said the Taliban could be expected to continue to attack, “but overall they are losing.”
Little said Panetta was briefed only “very recently” on the erroneous data.
U.S. and alliance officials try to measure progress against the Taliban from a variety of angles. Those include, for example, indications that the Taliban have lost much of their influence in population centers.
“The fact that 80 percent of the violence has been taking place in areas where less than 20 percent of the Afghan population lives remains unchanged,” Little said.
The Taliban have lost a good deal of territory since a 2010 surge of U.S. forces in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, and they failed to recover it during the past two fighting seasons.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Clinton: Women ‘expect’ extremism from terrorists, not GOP candidates
- Virginia reporter, cameraman killed on air; gunman also dies
- US economy surged at 3.7 percent rate in April-June quarter
- Dow, S&P, Nasdaq soar 4% despite China worries, but volatility expected to endure
- Affordable Care Act ‘Cadillace tax’ may prompt employers to trim health benefits
- Louisiana officer shot dead, 3 stabbed
- Kraft Heinz recalls more than 2M pounds of turkey bacon
- Pentagon probes ISIS assessment
- Staff in State Department found to send unsecured email, just like Clinton
- Ky. clerk loses appeal in gay marriage case
- Smithsonian panda twin dies