Return of the five o’clock follies


Danger Room‘s Spencer Ackerman reports on the latest Pentagon happy-talk about the war in Afghanistan (“General: Taliban Suicide Bombings Show U.S. ‘Progress’,” Danger Room blog, 8 February 2012):

Here are some indications of U.S. success in the decade-long Afghanistan war: a recent rise in suicide attacks and homemade bombs.

Those were some unlikely examples Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the war’s day-to-day commander, cited to Pentagon reporters on Wednesday morning to support his claim that U.S. forces were making “steady progress throughout” Afghanistan. “We certainly have the momentum,” Scaparrotti said.

Except that the most recent United Nations report found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan are up eight percent — making 2011 the fifth consecutive year the war’s civilian death toll has risen, despite a U.S. strategy predicated on keeping Afghans safe from harm. The discrepancy between statistics like that and the sunny assessments made by officers like Scaparrotti prompted an Army lieutenant colonel who served two tours in Afghanistan, Daniel Davis, to blast his superiors for misleading the public in a recent Armed Forces Journal essay.

Scaparrotti, who said he accepted the U.N.’s statistics, pointed out that the vast majority of Afghan civilians — 77 percent — die because of insurgent actions. When Danger Room asked if the increase in total civilian deaths indicated that the insurgents still have a free hand to attack, Scaparrotti replied, “I’d say it’s actually reduced. It’s pushed them into a certain [set of tactics] which isn’t ideal.”

Haven’t we heard all this stuff about “momentum” and “desperate tactics” before?

Yes.
Indeed.

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