Everything You Need to Know About the DOD’s 1230/1231 Progress Report

by Joshua Foust on 5/1/2011 · 12 comments

Here is the latest 6-month review (pdf). It is progress progress progress, as you’d expect, since General Petraeus has decided that’s the only kind of update he’ll accept. Look at page 65. That’s where you see the much-vaunted ISAF push to safeguard civilians failed, since civilian casualties went up.

On page 66, you can see that overall violence is the highest its ever been—that the winter lull of 2011 was almost as violent as the summer surge of 2009. ISAF pins this on more operations, more troops, and a mild winter. At the same time, violence everywhere was already spiking in March—so while all the flacks last winter were urging the witholding of judgment until the summer begins… well, can we please stop pretending what this means?

Page 69 shows that IED events are the highest they’ve ever been, and the rate at which they’ve being discovered and defused hasn’t improved. They’re finding more weapons caches than ever before (page 70), but that hasn’t resulted in a decrease in insurgent operations tempo.

This what ISAF portrays as tangible progress that is breaking the momentum of the insurgency. Their own data says the exact opposite. Whether you think this is deliberately misleading on their part—basically, whether you think they’re lying—or just insane, legitimately insane wishful thinking, is up to you. I’ll be up front say I can’t tell which I think, and which I find more worrying.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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TJM May 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm

That data also spiked in Iraq after the surge, before plummeting quickly. I’m not saying that’s going to happen in Afghanistan, but just pointing out that the metrics you’ve presented aren’t conclusive without more explanation.

Joshua Foust May 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Yes, though that goes both ways. There is no basis to declare success as confidently as ISAF is doing.

TJM May 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm


M Shannon May 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Explanation isn’t needed, time is. Come back in September and we’ll see how the summer went. Bad things have been going up steadily since 2004 and each year ISAF spokesmen have reported progress, reaching tipping points or that the Taliban are desperate etc., so I come down on the negative prediction side.

There are no comparisons to be made between Iraq and Afghanistan other than we’re not clear what the mission is, we’re not very welcome, our militaries are terribly expensive and our public have limited tolerance for expensive campaigns and casualties.

Pol-Mil FSO May 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

M Shannon noted that “we’re not clear what the mission is, we’re not very welcome, our militaries are terribly expensive and our public have limited tolerance for expensive campaigns and casualties.”

Unfortunately all of those points are right on the mark.

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Daniel Serwer May 9, 2011 at 8:52 am

The bigger problems seem to me to lie on the governance side, not the military claims. We simply are not building as fast as the soldiers are clearing. That puts a lot of pressure on hold. See “Tangible progress meets lack of capacity” at http://www.peacefare.net/?p=2986

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Dishonesty? May 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

NATO reintegration program

NATO’s plan to get Afghan insurgents to lay down their arms hasn’t exactly been a blockbuster. 900 guerrillas have agreed to stop fighting in the the last five months — just a tiny sliver of the more than 20,000 fighters that are estimated to be battling the Kabul government and their western allies.

“Strategically, it’s yet to really bite into the insurgency,” concedes British Maj. Gen. Phil Jones, who heads up the Force Reintegration Cell, NATO’s task force to bring Afghan insurgents back into mainstream society. In order to have that “strategic” impact, Jones figures he’ll need “12, 15,000 people running through the program.”

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