Seth Jones, March 14, 2011:
Assessing progress in a counterinsurgency is more art than science. Body counts tend not to be helpful in measuring insurgent progress. Nor do levels of violence. Neither captures the combatants’ primary goal: control over the population…
A second reason for the decline in Taliban control appears to be the surge in conventional military forces, especially in eastern and southern Afghanistan. There are currently nearly 70,000 NATO forces in the south, up from 20,000 in April 2009. In Helmand province, for example, U.S. Marine Corps and Afghan National Army forces have conducted a range of dismounted patrols, targeting insurgent sanctuaries and working closely with tribal and other community leaders. One of the most notable successes has been the recent agreement with the Alikozai tribe in Sangin district, an insurgent stronghold, to halt insurgent attacks on coalition forces and expel Taliban fighters.
Thomas Ruttig, March 9, 2011:
The government of those NATO countries that provide troops for ISAF are currently developing a narrative of success: After another much-touted change of strategy, the Afghan army and police are growing, both in quantity and quality, both increasingly capable of protecting their country against the insurgents. Taleban and al-Qaida – both not much different from each other – are taking mighty hits…
This [UN/AIHRC] report speaks another language, one that makes the NATO narrative sound hollow, even dishonest. The consistent escalation of violence that is reflected in the UN/AIHRC figures alone is proof that the NATO narrative is wrong. The massively increased military pressure on the insurgents has not weakened them or forced them to the negotiating table. They just adopt their asymmetrical warfare – all this talk about their ‘cowardly assaults’ is propaganda, as long as soldiers and policemen are concerned which are in Afghanistan to fight and kill. Meanwhile, almost all security analysts in the insurgency‘s core areas in Southern and South-Eastern Afghanistan – domestic ones as well as internationals – confirm that all indicators about a really successful counter-insurgency are pointing into the wrong direction, like the number, geographical scope and casualty rates of insurgent operations as well as their potential to recruit. But because NATO HQ in Brussels or Washington don’t want to hear that (and their jobs depend on capitals, directly or indirectly) they tell you ‘off the records’ only. But I am sure that you have heard it, too.
Anyway, pick your narrative, then argue it to the hilt, sometimes before Congress.