Metrics with General Petraeus

by Sekundar on 3/22/2011 · 1 comment

Josh had a good bit up recently about victory in Afghanistan. He basically took a paragraph of Petraeus’ testimony to the U.S. Congress, in which the maverick general gave little information about what a post-ISAF Afghanistan would look like, what it would take for ISAF to leave, and when we can expect the war to be done (when assessments say we can).

Petraeus spoke of the progress made, and indeed, there are some figures that support the idea that the tide has been turned in that country. But that is to measure selectively. To this day, ISAF continues to search for new metrics to determine progress (or failure, although you rarely hear that) in Afghanistan. The war will turn ten years old in a matter of months, and the draw-down is still set to begin this summer. Any metrics introduced now will at most cover three years; any comparable from before the metric will be anecdotal at best.

Whether intentionally or not, IMHO, new metrics will only be introduced so long as they justify the desired end-state. The U.S. wants combat forces gone from Afghanistan in 2014. The U.S. seems to need GIRoA to last a respectable amount of time after the last ISAF troops leave, and to avoid pictures of marines on embassy rooftops. The war has lost popular support, and political support is usually not too far behind.   From what Petraeus did say (you can find the testimony here), it sounds a lot like the U.S. would be alright with a Najibullah-type ally in Kabul (who with large amounts of Soviet assistance was able to stay in power three years after the Soviet withdrawal), plus the ability to continue the drone strikes. The only thing missing is the clear path to that end-state. This is where the metrics will matter; if ISAF relies too much on what it wants to hear, it will leave areas before they are secure, or in the hands of GIRoA forces unable to secure them. I shudder to think what will happen to the Afghans there.


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Sekundar works in national security, and has worked and studied in Central and South Asia.

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{ 1 comment }

Dishonesty? March 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Taliban metrics,

All mobile telephone networks have been switched off in the Afghan province of Helmand after a Taliban threat.

Correspondents say that the decision of mobile companies to obey the order reflects the militants’ power in one of Afghanistan’s most restive areas.

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