Afghanistan by the Numbers: Inside the Fight Over Facts

Afghanistan by the Numbers: Inside the Fight Over Facts by Scott Peterson - Christian Science Monitor

By the most obvious metrics, the conflict in Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence during the past two weeks, already half a year after President Trump declared his “fight and win” strategy for America’s longest war.

In Kabul, Taliban insurgents laced an ambulance with explosives, killing more than 100 people at the gate of the Interior Ministry complex on Jan. 27. Taliban gunmen also besieged the Intercontinental hotel, killing more than 20 on Jan. 20.

And jihadists of the so-called Islamic State, not to be outdone, claimed responsibility for attacking the offices of Save the Children in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, killing four staff members. In Kabul, ISIS militants attacked an army post near a military academy, killing 11 on Jan. 29.

Yet even as Afghans coped with the headline-grabbing carnage, official metrics of the state of the war that once were public – insurgent control of territory, for example, and Afghan troop strength and casualty numbers – are no longer being published by the US military.

Analysts say there is no doubt that the Taliban are making steady gains across the country at the expense of embattled, US- and NATO-backed Afghan government forces. And a BBC investigation this week found that the Taliban now “threatens” 70 percent of the country, a level higher than defined by previous US military reporting.

But the lack of updated US data – noted disparagingly by the US government’s watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its latest quarterly report on Jan. 30 – raises questions about why the figures are being hidden now…

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