My latest piece for PBS looks at the metrics we use to measure the war in Afghanistan.
In fact, it’s difficult to reconcile the official reports of “successful” operations — the growing number of detained or killed Taliban commanders, escalating opium seizures, and so on — with the larger statistical picture of the war. Some analysts have tried to explain away the more discouraging indicators as the last gasp of a dying movement (essentially accusing the Taliban of throwing a mortar tantrum because they’re losing). But the latest Afghan surge of troops is now more than a year old, if judged from when Marines were first deployed in December 2009. This stands in stark contrast to the Iraq surge: At the eight-month mark in September 2007, General David Petraeus reported to Congress that there was a noticeable and substantial reduction in violence (pdf). There is no similar trend in Afghanistan.