David Ignatius, Washington Post, 28 June 2011:
Politicians from both parties are already writing off Afghanistan as a lost cause. But [General] Petraeus argues that Obama’s December 2009 troop surge is beginning to pay dividends, even as Washington sours on the war: The level of violence in recent weeks has been down about 5 percent from a year ago, and Taliban fighters have failed to regain control of Kandahar and Helmand strongholds that were cleared in 2010. Afghan troops are performing better, he insists, and they are suffering three times as many deaths as NATO forces.
Bill Varner, Bloomberg, 29 June 2011:
Violence in Afghanistan, led by Taliban suicide attacks and assassinations, increased by 51 percent in the past three months compared with the same period in 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
This does not mean General Petraeus is lying. Much like the tricks he played when ignoring his own intelligence analysts, Petraeus could mean that an arbitrary period of time—”in recent weeks” could mean just about anything—has marginally less violence than the same arbitrary period of time last year. But overall violence is unquestionably higher.
So Petraeus is probably not lying. But his portrayal of violence in those terms is deeply dishonest, and I wish David Ignatius would develop the self-respect to stop enabling it. And even if that five percent represented an honest portrayal of violence trends in Afghanistan, as Spencer Ackerman asks, is that possibly worth it?
It is not. The leadership of this war needs to be called out, openly and explicitly, about its dishonest portrayal of it.