Martine van Bijlert looks at ISAF press releases for Uruzgan and comes to a startling conclusion:
So I made a few more phone calls and found out that it had been a violent week indeed. In the span of two days there had been two separate spates of attacks and counter attacks, involving on one hand (probably) the Taleban and on the other respectively the Hazara and the Pashtun ALP militias. A total of nine people had been killed. Clearly not all the violence had made it into the ISAF press release…
The question is obviously whether these really are the kind of ‘security gains’ you should be looking for, with their ever-widening circle of killings and counter-killings (and the list is already long). The question is whether ISAF does not have a greater responsibility to know what is going on and to ensure that their ALP forces do not terrorise the population. And the question is whether these are really the kind of press releases you want to be issuing when so much is going on in an area.
Maybe not so startling. That is precisely the sort of question ISAF should be asking itself, especially when we contrast their constant drumbeat of uncritically good news that, upon closer inspection, utterly falls apart.
There is a word for when a person or organization systematically under-reports bad news, or declines to discuss it, or sends its top official in front of the Congress to say the opposite of its own data, briefings, and findings. But calling anyone involved in the war a liar is a reliable way of eliciting a clutched-pearls reaction from the military’s boosters. So let’s just say it more gently: ISAF consistently misrepresents the failures of the war. And the public, and especially the soldiers who are caught up in it, are very much worse off for it.